(s5762-240-36 / date Month 5762)
THE INNKEEPER AND THE GENERAL
The general blew up. He told the Jewish innkeeper of
Kovna that if he persisted in his refusal, terrible things would happen to
INNKEEPER AND THE GENERAL
In a village near Kovna lived a Jewish man
named Yosef, who earned his living from a small inn that he maintained.
He was both pious and an accomplished Torah scholar, and was well-respected
by everyone who knew him. His good name drew people to his establishment,
Jew and non-Jew alike. Many of the wealthy, nobility and high officials
would drop in to do business or just pass the time, while they enjoyed
a drink and a bite to eat.
One day, the Russian army returned from Warsaw after a military skirmish
with the Poles. One battalion was assigned, for a while, to bivouac
in Yosef's village. After they got themselves organized and set up,
their commanding officer, a general, wished to relax with a glass
of good wine. Two soldiers were dispatched to the innkeeper's home.
They knocked on the door and announced that they came to buy a bottle
of the most expensive wine for their general.
To their surprise, they were met with a polite but firm refusal. It
was Shabbat eve, the sun had already set; Queen Shabbat had arrived.
"Sorry, fellows," said Yosef, "no sales today."
When the soldiers returned empty handed, the general started to get
angry. He was used to his orders being immediately fulfilled. The
soldiers insisted it wasn't their fault. "The Jew absolutely
refused to sell to us," they explained.
Then the general blew up. Impudent Jew! Enraged, he ordered the two
to go back and tell the Jew that if he persisted in his refusal, terrible
things would happen to him.
The soldiers left, but when they came back, they still had no wine.
Before the general could get angry, however, they showed him that
they had the keys to the inn. "That Jew is weird," they
exclaimed. "First he won't sell to us, no matter what; then he
gives us the keys to his shop. He even said we can take whatever we
like--and for free!"
The general's fury turned into astonishment. His curiosity piqued,
he decided he would go see this strange Jew for himself.
When the door was opened to him, the general remained rooted on the
threshold. In the center of the room stood a table covered with a
sparkling white cloth. On it were glowing candles spreading their
light throughout the entire room. The faces of the small children
that turned towards him shone with big bright smiles. It seemed to
him that everyone at the table was beaming with light. The delicious
smells of Shabbat wafted through the room, filling the general's nostrils.
He had never partaken of such a vision in his life.
Yosef warmly invited him to join them, and instructed someone to bring
up from the cellar a bottle of good, aged liquor, so he could serve
his guest in style. The general could contain himself no longer. "I
don't understand," he cried out. "Why did you refuse to
sell me a solitary bottle of wine and then of your own will send me
the keys to your inn? And now you honor me with fancy drinks to my
"It's simple," smiled the innkeeper. "G-d Almighty,
who is infinitely more exalted than any aristocratic noble or other
important person, forbids us to do business on the holy Shabbat. But
when you honor me by visiting me in my home, then you are my guest,
and I will do everything in my power to treat you well."
The general sated himself with meat and drink, and stood to go. He
took a gold coin from his pocket and attempted to pay his host for
the exquisite meal.
"G-d forbid!" Yosef exclaimed. "I already explained
to you that on Shabbat I don't have customers, only guests. And with
guests I don't reckon bills or take payments."
The general wrote down the innkeeper's name in his notebook and departed,
but not before shaking his host's hand in friendship and thanking
him with great warmth.
Several years passed. A black carriage, instantly recognizable as
one of those used to transport serious criminals, stopped in front
of Yosef's house. Armed policemen emerged, arrested the innkeeper,
and took him away to jail.
After a while, Yosef was informed of the reason for his arrest. The
leader of the rebels, Yan Kanarki, had been captured. In his journal,
Yosef's inn was mentioned as a regular meeting place. From this, the
police deduced that, beyond doubt, the innkeeper must be a prominent
member of the underground.
Yosef sat in his cramped, dark cell unceasingly murmuring Psalms in
a broken, weeping voice. He pleaded with the Master of the Universe
to save him from the horror that had overtaken him.
While he was still praying, the door of his cell opened. The chief
supervisor of the national prison system was present on an inspection
tour. The official's glance took in the sobbing Jew. Much to everyone's
surprise, he clasped the prisoner's hand, and with much warmth asked,
"My good friend! What are you doing here?"
Yosef's eyes were filled with tears; he could barely distinguish who
stood in front of him. Who was he? Suddenly he recognized the official;
it was the general!
Yosef told him the details of his totally unexpected, false arrest.
The general swiftly pursued the investigators on the case, and firmly
asserted that a terrible mistake had taken place. Based on his personal
acquaintance with the accused, the general insisted that the innkeeper
could not possibly be involved with a revolutionary plot.
Thanks to the general's deposition, all charges were dropped and Yosef
was freed. From that day on, he lavished even more honor on Queen
Shabbat than before. After all, he owed her his life.
Copyrighted © by Ascent-of-Safed, 2002
[Translated-adapted by Yrachmiel Tilles (and first published in Kfar
Chabad Magazine - English) from Shmu V'techi Nafshechem
#199. You may distribute this e-mail as long as full attribution is
given, including Ascent's email and internet addresses.]