Weekly Chasidic Story #999 (s5777-17 / 25 Tevet 5777)

On the Road

Before Rabbi Zusya of Anipoli was revealed as one of the spiritual giants of the generation, he lived the life of a nomad.

Connection: Seasonal - the 217th yahrzeit of Rabbi Zusya falls this coming Saturday night - Sunday.

On the Road

Before Rabbi Zusya of Anipoli was revealed as one of the spiritual giants of the generation, he lived the life of a nomad. He would wander from village to village, from town to town, and nobody knew who he was or could possibly fathom his greatness.

One evening, when he was sitting in the shul-study room of whatever small town he happened to be in then, a woman opened the door, entered, and asked loudly, "Have any of you men seen my husband?"

No one knew who she was. It turned out that her husband abandoned her and no one knew where he had run off to or even if he was still alive. His poor wife was now an aguna, unable to claim either divorcee or widow status, and therefore forbidden to remarry. Desperate to escape from her aguna status, she decided to travel to as many places as she could in search of her husband. In every city, town, village and settlement she arrived at, she would ask help in finding her husband, relating physical signs by which he could be identified. But to no avail, and she was becoming frustrated and depressed, at the end of her strength and financial resources.

However, when Reb Zusya heard her unusual request, he jumped up to face her and said, "Go quickly now to the Town Guesthouse, and there you will find your husband."

The woman neither hesitated nor asked a single question. She darted away to the Hospitality Center, and there, remarkably, discovered her runaway husband.

Those present were amazed. How could this itinerant Zusya know the whereabouts of the runaway husband whom he had never met? Their amazement mounted when they soon discovered he had never set foot in the Guesthouse either.

"Surely this is a miracle," they concluded excitedly. Word spread quickly from mouth to mouth to the entire local Jewish population.

"No, no, nothing is miraculous here," Zusya hastened to disclaim. "It's just that something strange happened {at shul} this morning. After Shacharit (morning prayer), I overheard two men conversing, and one of them said to the other that a new guest in town had just showed up at the Guesthouse shul.

"I couldn't help wondering," Zusya continued; "what was the significance of my happening to hear this? Why should my ears snatch on to this snippet in the midst of all the other conversations at the same time?

"I wasn't able to come up with an answer or even a theory. I wanted to spend the day learning Torah, so I had to turn my mind away from this question. Then, this evening, after Maariv (Evening Prayer), {for some reason} I started thinking about it again. Just then, the woman came into the Study Hall and asked if we had seen her husband. I instantly thought to myself, 'That's the answer! This man that I heard them talking about must be her husband!'"

Everyone present stared at each other in wonderment. "He says this is not a miracle? If so, then it is an indication-a clear sign, even-that this stranger Zusya must be a tzadik (exceptionally holy). Imagine: he is so careful to not pay attention to gossip, so trained himself to tune out even idle conversation, that when his ears catch insignificant words he feels compelled to search out a deeper meaning for the occurrence. Only such a pure soul would Heaven arrange to hear seemingly insignificant words and trust that he would feel compelled to decipher their true significance."

Source: Translated and freely adapted by Yerachmiel Tilles from a transcription on http://www.veber.co.il/of an audio tape of the deceased tzadik of Jerusalem and Lubavitcher chasid, Rabbi Moshe Weber [1914-2000]. (Tapes from the vast collection, "Shemu ViTachi Nafshechem" ("Hear and Your Soul Shall Live,") can be ordered through the site).

Biographical note:
Rabbi Meshulam-Zusya of Anapoli [of blessed memory: ? - 2 Shvat 5560 (?-Jan. 1800 C.E.)], was a major disciple of the Maggid. The seemingly unsophisticated but clearly inspired "Reb Zusha" is one of the best known and most beloved Chassidic personalities. He and his famous brother, the Rebbe Elimelech of Lizhensk, spent many years wandering in exile, for esoteric reasons.

Connection: The 217th yahrzeit of Rebbe Zusya falls this Saturday night, 2 Shevat (this year: Sun., Jan. 29).

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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