315 (s5764-06/ 3 Cheshvan)

"Am I My Brother's Keeper?"

Rabbi Yisrael of Rhyzhin
explained the miracle he did by telling a Baal Shem Tov story.

"Am I My Brother's Keeper?"

Once there was a follower of the holy Rabbi Yisrael of Ryzhin that owned a large soap factory. He had many non-Jewish workers and always treated them fairly and kindly.

One of his workers was a fifteen-year-old lad that suffered terribly at home and was always miserable. This boy's father had died when he was a baby and his mother remarried a cruel drunkard of a man with four grown sons of his own. It wasn't long before this sadist began to order his sons to beat the poor lad while he sat back and enjoyed the spectacle. To make matters worse, the boy's heartbroken mother was helpless to stop the torture.

One night, insane with depression after an unusually long thrashing, he found a long piece of rope, limped to the factory, climbed up to one of the rafters above the huge vat where the soap was crushed and boiled, and … hung himself.

Early next morning when the chasid opened the door to his factory and was greeted by this gruesome sight, he understood that it could mean big trouble for him. If anyone found out about this he was sure to be accused by the anti-Semitic villagers of murder.

He had to act fast. Without giving it too much thought he took a knife, climbed up to the same rafter, cut the rope and watched as the body fell below him and melted into the boiling churning soap.

But the case was far from closed. It seems that one of the neighbors saw the lad enter the factory late the previous night, and because no one saw him leave, the Jew was suspected. Needless to say, the Bishop and the townsfolk began to demand justice.

The Chassid had no choice than to speed as fast as possible to his Rebbe, 'The Holy Ryzhiner,' for help.

The Rebbe listened, thought a bit, and finally assured the trembling man that everything would be all right. He added that he personally would defend him in court.

The day of the trial arrived and the courthouse was packed. The police had trouble keeping order; the only thing that quieted the crowd was their desire to hear the witnesses. They were almost in tears when the boy's stepfather and stepbrothers testified one after the other, how they loved the dear departed lad, and they hissed when they heard how the boy often cursed the evil Jew.

They seethed when they heard the testimony of the neighbor. But it was the Bishop's speech, a venomous assault on the Jews and their blood rites, which began to drive the crowd to the point of frenzy.

He was just in the middle of a glorious sentence; --hand lifted majestically in the air-- when suddenly the courtroom door burst open, everyone turned to look, and in walked … the dead boy!

Everyone froze in astonishment as the boy walked to the front of the courtroom faced the audience and shouted angrily: "What are you doing to this Jew! He was my only friend! Dead? I am not dead! I just ran away to escape their beatings! Your Honor!!" the lad looked up at the Judge pointing his finger at his 'brothers', "if anyone deserves punishment it is these evil snakes!"

The stepfather and his sons shot quick glances at each other. Then, blind with flaming rage, they suddenly jumped from their places and before the police could intervene, one grabbed the boy by the throat while the others beat and kicked him mercilessly until … he died.

They were all arrested on the spot and charged with murder.

Later the Rhyzhiner Rebbe explained the miracle that he had accomplished by telling a story that involved the Baal Shem Tov bringing back a non-Jewish nobleman who had been dead for fifteen years.

"I am nothing compared to the Besht," concluded the Holy Ruziner; "nevertheless, if he could reconstruct a person a decade and a half after he died, I felt sure I could do the same thing with this lad who died only last week. That is how I knew I could help you."

[Adapted by Yrachmiel Tilles from the rendition of his friend and colleague Rabbi Tuvia Bolton in his weekly email for Yeshiva Ohr Tmimim: yeshiva@ohrtmimim.org ; http://www.ohrtmimim.org/torah ]

Biographical note:
Rabbi Yisrael Friedmann of Rhyzhin [1797 - 3 Cheshvan 1850] was a great-grandson of the Maggid of Mezritch. At a young age was already a charismatic leader with a large following of chassidim. Greatly respected by the other rebbes and Jewish leaders of his generation, he was -and still is-referred to as "The Holy Rhyzhiner." Six of his sons established Chassidic dynasties, several of which -Sadigora, Chortkov, etc- are still thriving today.


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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