#139 (s5760-39/5 Sivan)


"You have to hear this amazing episode with Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi; it is my own personal experience."


Once, when I was away from Sklov, I stayed overnight in a rooming-house in Disna. There was another guest there at the same time, also a Chabad chassid, who was from Cheznick. We spent some time together talking about the extraordinary greatness of our holy Rebbe [Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, the Alter Rebbe]. Then, my new friend's face flamed with enthusiasm. He said to me excitedly, "Hold on, my man; you have to hear this amazing episode with the Rebbe that I am going to tell you. It is my own personal experience.

"I have two sons: the older is twenty years old, the other is eighteen, and both of them were excelling in theirTorah studies. But then we were informed that our family had been put into this year's draft lottery and that our number had come up-one of them would have to go into military service, into the oppressively anti-semitic Russian army. There was no possibility to get out of it.

"I immediately journeyed to the Rebbe and told him the terrible news that had befallen us. The Rebbe answered me, 'So what do you want from me? Am I a government minister?'

"I was so distressed I couldn't help but cry. Through my tears I blurted to the Rebbe, 'I don't know why the Rebbe distances himself from me so much. I am attached to the Rebbe just like the other new chassidim.'

"The Rebbe replied, 'Oh yes? And who says you are one of my followers?'

" 'It's so,' I managed to insist. 'I was in Lubavitch last year, and this year, and I have retained fully all the Torah explanations and insights that I heard from the Rebbe's holy mouth. Ask me about any concept from them and I will be able to answer right away.'

"Then the Rebbe had mercy on me. 'With G-d's help your sons will be saved,' he said. 'Now, go! Travel to Liepli. There is a man there who is expert in these matters. He will surely be able to help you. So go right away to Liepli, and as soon as you get there, go to this man's house.'

' 'But,' I wondered, 'he won't know me at all.'

" 'What are you worried for?' the Rebbe said to me. 'He will recognize you and he will do everything to help you.'

"So, of course, I immediately made the journey to Liepli. I arrived there very late, hours past midnight, a little before dawn. I didn't delay at all, but went right to the man's house.

"The gate was locked. I waited outside, until I heard that one of the servants was up and about, whereupon I knocked on the door. I was let in and escorted to a seat in the main room.

"It was still very early in the morning. I heard the master of the house pacing to and fro in his room. He was noisy like a wild man, or a drunk. Every few moments he would cry out, 'G-d Al-mighty! What is this?' Afterwards he came out into the room where I was, still yelling and unable to keep still. He didn't see me at all.

"I remained silent. Finally he noticed me, and ran over with a fresh burst of energy to greet me. Breathlessly, he asked me where I was from. When I said, 'from Chesnick,' he began to dance around and clap his hands vigorously, all the while calling out, 'He's from Chesnick! He's from Chesnick!' I was convinced he was out of his mind.

"Finally he calmed down. He addressed me normally: 'My dear sir. I know you think I am crazy, because of the wild manner I reacted when you said you were from Chesnick. But please allow me to explain, and then I think you won't judge my behavior so outlandish after all.

" 'It is five years since I have seen the Rebbe's holy face,' he continued. 'Last night I dreamed that the Rebbe was in my house. He pleaded with me and tried every which way to convince me to help the man from Chesnick in distress.

" 'I woke up, startled and somewhat upset by this dream. Then I fell back to asleep. Again I dreamed that the Rebbe was with me, imploring me to help the man from Chesnick. And so it went the whole night.

" 'When I got up this morning I was totally confused and disoriented. That's how I could not notice you sitting there. Then I saw you and you said you were from Chesnick. My soul exploded! Now I knew it wasn't just a silly dream.

" 'So,' he finished, 'tell me what your problem is.'

"I told him the disastrous news that one of my sons was about to be drafted, and reviewed with him all the details. He responded that it was extremely difficult to change an official draft-lottery notice, but nevertheless, 'with G-d's help, and in the merit of our illustrious Rebbe, everything would work out for the best.'

"He then drank a glass of tea, davenned Kriyat Shma and Shemona Esrey, and headed off to the government complex, to military headquarters. He was there nearly the whole work-day. When he returned in the late afternoon, he was full of joy. 'No razor shall touch his head,' he quoted, smiling. 'Your sons are free. Their draft-lottery will not be for another few years, by when the current pressures will have subsided.

The Cheznicker uttered these final lines of his story to me with difficulty. He was in tears, having become so emotionally worked up while relating his personal miracle.

[Translated and retold by Yrachmiel Tilles (and first published in Kfar Chabad Magazine) from Siporim Noraim by Rabbi Yaakov Kaidener, who heard it directly from the chassid from Sklov and insists he was a reliable person, not at all prone to exaggeration.]

Biographical note:
Rabbi Shnuer Zalman
[18 Elul 1745-24 Tevet 1812], one of the main disciples of the Maggid of Mezritch, is the founder of the Chabad-Chassidic movement. He is the author of Shulchan Aruch HaRav and Tanya as well as many other major works in both Jewish law and the mystical teachings.

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.

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