Weekly Chasidic Story #773 (s5773-01 / 3 Tishrei 5773)

Alone in the Forest

The Alexander Rebbe thought his end was near, whereupon his son embraced him and swore that no harm would befall him.

Connection: This week's reading of Vayelech - verses 31:17-18.


Alone in the Forest

Rebbe Yechiel of Alexander and the son who was to succeed him as the Alexander Rebbe, Rabbi Yerachmiel, were in an isolated village where they had gone for a health retreat. In the middle of the night, the father suddenly took ill and was in danger of his life. There was no doctor for many miles around. The tzadik thought his end was near, and wept, whereupon his son embraced him and swore that no harm would befall him.

Then he left his father for a few moments, walked out into the thick of the forest and cried out: "Master of the Universe! Is this what you do to the Rebbe of Alexander? In the forest, with no one at hand?! Do our Sages not teach us that "The Almighty cares for the honor of tzadikim [the righteous]?"

He quickly returned to his father and found him feeling better.

"How were you able to swear?" asked Reb Yechiel.

"I relied on the words of the holy Ruzhiner," answered his son. "In the book of Psalms, King David pleads: 'How long will You hide Your face from me?

How long shall I take counsel in my soul?' (Psalms 1:13) These words the tzadik of Ruzhin reads as a question and an answer, as follows: 'How long will You hide Your face from me?' And the supplicant answers his own question: 'So long as I can take counsel in my soul.' That is to say, when the supplicant can do nothing whatever to remedy his situation, and help can come from G-d alone, in such a time the Almighty cannot hide His face.

"And here, out in the middle of a forest, when there was no way in which we could possibly take counsel and help ourselves, and no one could help us but G-d alone, I was perfectly certain that no harm would befall us. So that is why I swore as I did."
Source: Adapted/Supplemented by Yerachmiel Tilles from the rendition in A Treasury of Chassidic Tales (Artscroll), as translated by the esteemed Uri Kaploun from Sipurei Chasidim by Rabbi S. Y. Zevin.

Connection: This week's reading of Vayelech - verses 31:17-18.

Biographical notes:
Rabbi Yerachmiel-Yisrael-Yitzchak Danziger of Alexander [1853 - 29 Tevet 1910] was a popular Chasidic leader in Poland of a wide range of followers. His book Yismach Yisrael is studied by many different Chasidic groups.
Rabbi Yisrael Friedmann of Rizhin [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 chasidim. Greatly respected by the other rebbes and Jewish leaders of his generation, he was-and still is-referred to as "The Holy Rizhinner." Six of his sons established Chassidic dynasties, several of which-Sadigora, Chortkov, etc-are still thriving today.


Yerachmiel Tilles is co-founder and associate director of Ascent-of-Safed, and chief editor of this website (and of KabbalaOnline.org). He has hundreds of published stories to his credit, and many have been translated into other languages. He tells them live at Ascent nearly every Saturday night.

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