#188 (s5761-35/1 Sivan 5761)
A DRUNKARD'S LAST REQUEST
In 1954, an important wedding took place in Jerusalem. Rabbi Chaim Chaikl Miletzky, head of the famous Chayei Olam Yeshiva, married his son to...
DRUNKARD'S LAST REQUEST
In 5714 (1954), an important wedding took place in Jerusalem. The son of Rabbi Chaim Chaikl Miletzky, head of the famous Chayei Olam Yeshiva, was marrying a girl from a respected family, and most of the leading Torah scholars of the Holy City were in attendance. Unfortunately, the father of the chatan had to be carried in on a bed. For many years he suffered from severe problems with his feet. Sometimes it would get so bad that he would be unable to stand and would have to remain in bed. The doctors were now saying that one foot definitely had to be amputated, and perhaps the other one as well.
With his entrance, the noisy din of celebration died down. All eyes turned towards the poor man who couldn't dance at his son's wedding. R. Chaim Chaikl indicated that he wanted to speak He asked that everyone be extra quiet; otherwise, in his weakened state, he wouldn't be able to make himself heard. He wanted to tell of the events that led up to his present condition.
"When I was young and healthy, I learned in the Stutchin Yeshiva. There were about thirty of us young unmarried men, and we used to study day and night in one of the local shuls.
"In this town lived a man who was known to all as 'Itche der shiker.' Every day he would drink until he passed out. When he awoke he would immediately drink more, until he lost consciousness again. His favorite sleeping place was the same shul that we studied in, and there he spent most of each day. Where he lived, no one had any idea. Nor did anyone care. The only ones in town who paid attention to him were the children. They would follow him around and tease him, as children are prone to do. In the shul he never bothered us, and we, for the most part, ignored him.
"One winter night, we were sitting and learning while Itche was sleeping on a bench near the stove, as usual. Unexpectedly, the door burst open and a wagon-driver came in, very upset. He told us that his wagon with its heavy load had flipped over, and that his horse was trapped underneath and was being choked by the reins. If it wasn't released soon it would die. He implored us to come help him lift the wagon, which one person couldn't do alone, before the struggling horse choked to death.
"We students began to discuss among ourselves whether it was permissible to interrupt our Torah studies for such a task. Finally we decided we shouldn't, because the wagon-lifting could be done by anyone, but only we were learning Torah.
"At that moment, much to our amazement, Itche opened his eyes and called out, 'Young men! You should go!' We ignored him and sent the dismayed wagoneer on his way to search for more appropriate helpers.
"But we hadn't heard the last from Itche der shiker. 'Immediately go and help that Jew save his horse,' he demanded.
"We laughed at his authoritative tone. Then, he really surprised us by his audacity. He said, 'If you don't go to help that poor Jew right now, there will come a time, G-d forbid, when you will not be able to go!'
"For a moment there was shocked silence. Then I said to him jokingly, 'Itcheh, since when did you become a posek, a rabbinical judge?'
"He didn't answer.
"About half an hour later, the wagon driver came running back, frantic. He hadn't been able to find anyone to help him. He pleaded with us to come. We discussed it again, and this time decided it was permitted for us to go. But when we got there, the horse was already dead.
"The next morning, I was a little late for the morning session. When I entered, my friends told me that Itche der shiker had been looking for me. I went over to him and asked him what he wanted. He said that he needed me to do him a favor.
" 'What?' I asked.
" 'I request that you come to my house this evening,' he replied calmly, 'because tonight I am going to die and I want you to be there when my soul departs.'
"I could barely believe my ears. 'Come on, Itche,' I chuckled, 'no man can know when he will die.'
"But he asked me again, and I thought to myself, 'What does it matter? What will I do tonight, anyway? Learn. So I can learn there too. I'll bring a sefer.'
"I asked Itche where he lived. He told me to walk to the very end of the town, where I would see a broken-down hovel. That was his dwelling.
"When I got there that evening, he was sleeping on a board that was lying on the floor. I sat down gingerly on a broken crate and opened my Talmud. I studied there for several hours. Then I thought, 'What do I need this aggravation for? Why did I let him confuse me? I'm going home.'
"But the moment I stood up to leave, Itche called out from his prone position, 'Chaim Chaikl! Don't leave! At 4:00 AM sharp I will die. After, go to the Chevreh Kadisha (Burial Society) and tell them to bury me next to the great scholar, Rabbi X.'
" 'Itche!' I replied, irked. 'You don't even put on tefillin, and now you want to be buried next to a tzadik, the greatest man in this town's history?'
" 'I don't put on tefillin?' he repeated wonderingly. 'See that box in the corner? Go open it and you will see my tefillin.'
"I hesitated and then did what he said. Inside was the most strikingly outstanding pair of tefillin I had ever seen! I was very impressed.
" 'But Itcheh,' I said, this time more gently, 'even if I tell them to do so, there is no possibility that the Chevreh Kadisha will listen to me to bury you next to him.'
" Itche's answer came promptly. 'If you look under the box where you saw my tefillin, you will find another, smaller box. Open it.'
"I did so. This time without hesitation. Inside was a thick pile of manuscripts. I began to glance through them. Then I stopped short and began to read more closely. The pages were filled with deep thoughts of Kabbalah and other esoteric subjects! I could barely understand any of it! Finally the realization sunk in-the man we knew as Itche der shiker was really one of the hidden righteous ones!
" 'Take my writings to the Chevreh Kadisha and the Town Rabbi,' Itche said softly to me, 'and surely they will do as I requested.'
"At exactly four o'clock Itche passed away. I ran to the Rabbi and the Chevreh Kadisha and told them everything: the writings, the tefillin, the precise prophecy. They were amazed, of course, and convinced. But the Chevreh Kadisha declared that they couldn't do it anyway, because there were no empty plots anywhere in the vicinity of the great scholar. For many years already, all the deceased were being laid to rest in the new cemetery.
"They decided to go look anyway. When they got there, they found an empty area right next to the great scholar's grave. They couldn't believe what they were seeing-they knew there was no such place!
"The report of Itche der shiker's true identity and the miracle in the cemetery spread quickly. The entire populace turned out to participate in the funeral, and to mourn the loss of what they didn't know they had.
As he concluded his story, R. Chaim Chaikl burst into tears. "Surely it is that this suffering has come upon me as a result of the words of that holy man."
* * *
One of those present at the wedding who heard this story was a Chabad chassid, R. Leib Friedman. As one who corresponded often with the Lubavitcher Rebbe, he couldn't hold himself back. He wrote the whole matter to the Rebbe and requested him to pray for a complete healing for the rosh yeshiva.
He received an answer. The Rebbe wrote him to deliver the message to Rabbi Chaim Chaikl Miletzky-that he should take upon himself the practice of learning the daily portions of Chumash-Tehillim-Tanya, known by their Hebrew initials as Chitat, as instituted by the Rebbe's father-in-law and predecessor. And not only should he do it himself, he should strongly recommend it to all those under his influence. Then, in the merit of his going in the way of the Previous Rebbe, G-d Al-mighty will bless him to be able to go on his own feet.
R. Friedman hurried to R. Chaim Chaikl to tell him about the Rebbe's answer. The rosh yeshiva read the letter excitedly, becoming more and more joyful. By time he finished he was so overwhelmed with emotion, he kissed the Rebbe's letter fervently. R. Friedman wanted to take the letter back, but at R. Chaim Chaikl's request, he agreed to let him hold on to it temporarily.
Six months later, R. Friedman visited him again. He found him sitting normally at his table. The doctors were no longer talking about amputations or any surgery, only about how to help him walk even better. Indeed, his condition continued to gradually improve.
It is said that he displayed his set of Chumash-Tehillim-Tanya prominently on his desk, and to everyone that entered his office, he requested that they begin to study the daily passages too. "Please do it for my sake," he would say; "it will help me get better!"
by Yrachmiel Tilles from Sipurei Chassidim Lenoar, pp. 226-228]
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.
A 48 page soft-covered booklet containing eleven of his most popular stories may be ordered on our store site.
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