Chassidic Story #211

(s5762-07 / posted 14 MarChesvan 5762)
Rabbi Yechiel Meir of Gostynin gave him a warm welcome, and served him strong drink and refreshments.

[Hospitality is a major theme in this week's reading.]


A Jew traveling about on business from town to town arrived in the middle of a winter's night in Gostynin, and made his way to the only house where lights were still shining. The householder - Rebbe Yechiel Meir of Gostynin, whom he did not know - gave him a warm welcome, and when he heard that his guest was hungry, served him strong drink and refreshments.

After that the traveler was still hungry, so the tzaddik searched about the house for food of some kind, and found a quantity of uncooked porridge and a saucepan full of fat. Unschooled in the finer points of cooking, he emptied one into the other, and put the result into the oven, which was still heaped with red-hot coals. It was a success; the famished traveler ate with gusto, and was sated.

The Rebbe then settled him in for the night in his own bed, where he slept soundly, galoshes and all (for he was weary from his travels), while his host, having nowhere to sleep, stayed awake through the night.

When his family awoke early, Reb Yechiel Meir did not allow them to enter the room lest they disturb their guest, and he too walked about on tiptoe. The time came for morning prayers, and he went to the synagogue as usual. The guest, waking up soon after, also went to shul; and there, in the course of conversation after prayers, people told him whom the illustrious personage was who had gone to so much trouble for him.

He was much abashed, and hastened to offer his apologies to the Rebbe, explaining that he did not know whose room he was in or whose house he was visiting.
The tzaddik's reply was disconcerting:

"I refuse to accept any apology from you."

The traveler tried even harder to explain that he was the innocent victim of ignorance, and so on and so forth, until the tzaddik finally said: "If you promise to carry out an instruction which I give you, then I will accept your apology."

The forlorn fellow solemnly gave his promise, after which Rebbe Yechiel Meir spoke: "This is my condition - that every time you ever pass by Gostynin, you will be my guest. For when do I ever get a chance to fulfill this mitzvah as I was able to do this time with you? -they always spoil it for me!"


[Adapted by Yrachmiel Tilles from the rendition in A Treasury of Chassidic Tales (Artscroll), as translated by the incomparable Uri Kaploun.]

Biographical note:
R. Yechiel Meir Lifschitz of Gostynin [1816 - 21Shvat 1888] was sometimes known as Der Tilim Yid (the Psalms Jew) because of his constant instruction to those who came to him for advice and support that they turn to the reading of the Book of Psalms. He was a disciple of R. Menachem Mendel of Kotsk, who advised him to take up the position of rav of Gostynin, and of R. Yaakov Aryeh of Radzymin, after whose death he became chassidic leader in Gostynin. His selfless and unsophisticated mode of living induced people to refer to him as "one of the 36 hidden tzadikim." His teachings appear in Merom HaRim and Mei HaYam.

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