#357 (s5764-51/ 22 Elul 5764

A Silent Confrontation

When Rabbi Mordechai Dov of Hornesteipel paid his promised visit hundreds of people accompanied him.

A Silent Confrontation

In a townlet near Ushamir in the Ukraine there lived a Jew who was manager of the estates belonging to the local paritz. This manager was an evil man - evil in the eyes of heaven and evil in the eyes of man - and the Jews of the township suffered bitterly at his hands.

One day Ushamir was visited by Reb Mordechai Dov of Hornisteipl, and great numbers of chassidim from all the surrounding regions converged on the town in order to greet him - and among them, of course, came the embittered townsfolk of that little place. When their turn came to speak to the rebbe they told him of their woes, and asked his advice as to what they should do.

"I'll visit your township myself, G-d willing" he said, "and once there we'll see what to do."

When he paid his promised visit hundreds of people accompanied him, some by wagon, some on foot. As the rebbe and this whole retinue passed by the house of the manager, someone pointed it out to the rebbe. He motioned the wagon-driver to stop, turned to face the house, and gazed upon it at length.

Meanwhile, since the rebbe's carriage stopped, all the other carriages halted too. As did the hundreds who had followed on foot. And as that vast crowd stood there watching the rebbe, they were quite certain that he was gazing so intently at the house that at any moment the hated man inside would be miraculously turned in to a heap of bones.

When the man inside looked through the window and saw the silent multitude outside his house he went out to the balcony and surveyed the strange sight.

For some time the rebbe looked him straight in the eye. Then he stepped down from his carriage, and with measured steps walked into the house.

The master of the house meanwhile went downstairs, and met the rebbe inside.

He led him into a room and there, the two of them sat alone, facing one another. Five whole minutes and still they had not exchanged a word. Then the rebbe rose and left the house, accompanied by the other, stepped up to his seat in his carriage, and went off to his lodgings.

After spending Shabbat in the township and reciting Havdalah to mark the departure of the Day of Rest, the rebbe was sitting in his room, with large crowds of people at his door waiting to see him. Suddenly the man whom everyone dreaded appeared at the door, and asked to be admitted to the rebbe's presence.

The was consulted, and he gave the order that the man should be allowed in at once.

What they spoke about while alone there for two hours no one knows. But the man who came out of the room at the end of the two hours was a different person.

The first thing he did was to hand out money for the purchase of refreshments for a Chassidic celebration. He danced with all those present and hurried home, where he shattered his trefah [non-kosher] kitchenware. He replaced it all with new utensils, and from then on conducted his household conscientiously according to the dietary laws for the preparation of kosher food.

And, as he became a penitent in all the areas of his life, he went out of his way from that day on to deal kindly and charitable with his fellows.

Just half a year later he died. He was buried with every mark of respect, and was mourned with genuine regret by all the townsfolk.

Some time later the tzaddik of Hornisteipl visited Ushamir once again. And again, among those who flocked there to see him were of course the citizens of that little township.

But this time, as they took their turns for a private audience with the tzaddik, he asked each one of them in turn: "Well, what do you have to say about my ba'al teshuvah?"

In response, each one of them praised at length the acts of charity which had distinguished the last months of this man's life. This exchange was repeated so many times that the townsfolk finally understood the rebbe's intention: the more said to his credit in This World, the better would it be for his soul in the World Above.

The last townsman to enter was an individual who had not yet forgotten all the suffering that he had undergone in former years at the hands of the estate manager. When the rebbe asked his question, he therefore enumerated bitterly all the acts of undeserved malice and spite that were still fresh in his memory.

The rebbe interrupted his tirade with an original paraphrase of a Talmudic teaching.
There is a statement in Tractate Sanhedrin that if all the judges of the high court are unanimous in saying "guilty," then the accused is to be returned innocent.

With this in mind, Rebbe Mordechai Dov said: "It seems that if all say 'innocent', that is likewise not desirable…."

And from then on he never spoke of that man again.


[Selected and adapted by Yrachmiel Tilles from the rendition in A Treasury of Chassidic Tales (Artscroll), as translated by our esteemed colleague Uri Kaploun from Sipurei Chasidim by Rabbi S. Y. Zevin.]

Biographical note:
Rabbi Mordechai Dov Twerski of Hornisteipel [1840 - 22 Elul 1904] was named after his two maternal great-grandfathers, Rabbi Mordechai of Chernobyl and Rabbi DovBer of Lubavitch. In addition, he was a direct descendant of Rabbi Zusha of Anipoli and the son-in-law of Rabbi Chaim of Sanz. A highly respected Talmudic scholar, he was also the author of a popular book of Chasidic guidance, Pele Yoetz


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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