(s5762-03 / posted 16 Tishrei 5762)
"NEVER DEMOLISH A SUKKAH"
Rabbi Mordechai of Nadvorna remarked
to the irate judge, "Rebbe Meirl of Premishlan was my great-uncle."
DEMOLISH A SUKKAH
An epidemic raged through Nadvorna as Sukkos
was approaching, and the physicians warned the townsfolk to take all
possible hygienic precautions for fear of contagion. The local judge,
an unusually evil man, was told that Rabbi Mordechai of Nadvorna
had just built a sukkah. He at once dispatched a messenger with a
court order to demolish it forthwith, because it supposedly contravened
the municipal health regulations. The Nadvorner Rebbe ignored the
Within minutes a squad of police arrived at his doorstep to warn
him of the consequences of his defiance. He replied: "I built
my sukkah in order that it should stand, not in order that it should
This time the judge sent the tzaddik a summons. When this too was
ignored, the judge decided to descend on his victim himself. He ordered
the tzaddik in harsh terms to dismantle the sukkah immediately, and
warned him of the severe punishment which any further disobedience
would earn him. These threats and warnings did not shake the tzaddik's
equanimity in the slightest. He simply answered coolly in the same
words that he had told the policemen - that he had built his sukkah
in order that it should stand, not in order that it should be demolished.
The judge was incensed and was about to pour more vituperation upon
the tzaddik, whereupon the latter remarked, "I would like you
to know that Rebbe Meirl of Premishlan was my great-uncle."
The judge flew into a rage: "Who cares who your great-uncle
was? Just demolish that thing, and that's all!"
The Nadvorner now repeated what he had just told the judge, then
asked him calmly to wait a moment; he wanted to tell him an interesting
The judge, taken by surprise, signified his assent with a brief nod,
and R. Mordechai began:
"Once there lived a priest who had ten sons, all of them as
robust and strong as cedars. He owned a beautiful big park, full
of trees that delighted G-d and man alike. One day he decided that
he would add grace to this grove by planting a little flower garden
next to it. So he uprooted some of his trees, and in their place
he planted fragrant flowers. But no sooner had he finished this
work than his sons fell ill, one after the other. First the oldest
weakened and died, then the second, and so on, until the very youngest
fell ill. The priest was at his wit's end. He summoned the most
expert doctors, and even consulted sorcerers, but to no avail. At
this point several people advised him to make the journey to visit
Rebbe Meir of Premishlan. Who knows? Perhaps salvation might come
through him, for he was reputed to be a holy man. By now there was
no alternative open to him, and he was desperately eager to save
the life of his last surviving son. So with a heavy heart he traveled
"Arriving there he told the holy man of all the trials that
had befallen him - and now even his last son was mortally ill, and
no physician cold cure him. Heaven alone could help him now.
"'You had a beautiful garden full of goodly trees,' Reb Meir
told him, 'but because you wanted a flower garden as well, you chopped
down the trees of G-d. And that is why He has now chopped down your
trees, "for man is a tree of the field." But since
you have already come here, and your time has not yet run out completely,
I promise you now that your youngest son will be helped from Above,
and will soon be cured.'
"The holy man then prayed that the Almighty heal the priest's
son, in order that His Name be sanctified wherever people would
hear of his story. This prayer was accepted, and the son grew to
"I want you to know," Rebbe Mordechair concluded his story
to the judge, "that you are the son of that priest
me, now, is this the way you repay the kindness that my great-uncle
showed you by saving your life?"
The judge fell at his feet, and wept. "True, true, I know it
all!" he sobbed. "Forgive me, Rabbi, for what I've done
to you. You can build even ten of those things - but only promise
that you will forgive me!"
The promise was given, the chastened judge went his way, and the
Rebbe of Nadvorna enjoyed his sukkah in peace.
[Slightly modified by Yrachmiel Tilles from the version in A Treasury
of Chassidic Tales (Artscroll), as translated by the incomparable
Rabbi Mordechai of Nadvorna [?-15 Tishrei 1895], the great
grandson of Rabbi Meir "The Great" of Premishlan, was orphaned
early and raised by his uncle, the famous Rebbe, Meirl of Premishlan
(see below). Chassidim from all over Rumania and Hungary streamed
in to receive his blessings. An extraordinarily large number of his
descendents became Chassidic leaders and Rebbes, including dozens
in the world today. His teachings are collected in Gedulas Mordechai.
Rabbi Meir of Primishlan [?-29 Iyar 1850], lived in abject
but patient poverty, yet exerted himself tirelessly for the needy
and the suffering. His divine inspiration and his ready wit have become
legendary. He wrote no works, but some of his teachings were collected
and published by his Chassidim after his death.
One descendant of R. Mordechai of Nadvorna was the beloved Nadvorna
Rebbe of Tsfat, Rabbi Aharon Yechiel Leifer, of blessed memory, who
passed away on Rosh Chodesh Sivan, 2000.
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