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How Could We Speak Against A True Tzaddik
By E. Lesches

Reb Yaakov Kadaner sat down wearily and stretched his tired bones. Here, in the main room of the roadside motel, close to the roaring fire, the day’s travels seemed to dissipate. Relaxing, he looked around the room and noticed a large group of merchants sitting together and talking. “Who are those people over there?” he asked someone near him.

“Oh, just a bunch of businessman from Shklov.”

“From Shklov?” Reb Yaakov bristled. Shklov, a fortress of Misnagdim, was the antithesis to anything and everything the Maggid of Mezritch and his Chassidus represented. In the past, Shklov had caused much grief to the Baal Shem Tov, his followers, and his teachings of Chassidism. As a stout follower of the Maggid, Reb Yaakov had little desire to share a room with these people who enjoyed deriding Chassidim and their leaders.

His fears were well founded. Although the merchants were obviously a scholarly bunch and had begun speaking about Torah-related topics, not long passed before the group of businessmen turned to their favorite topic of discussion — Chassidic rebbes. Each had a joke to tell, a jeering comment to make, a snide remark to laugh about. “But the Maggid!” someone spoke up. “How dare we open our mouths to say anything about this saintly man, this holy tzaddik. Remember the story with the epidemic? It happened to one of ours, a businessman from Slutzk.”

Reb Yaakov approached the group, eager to catch every word. Most of the group had apparently heard of the incident before, but this in no way diminished their enthusiasm in retelling the following story:

The merchant from Shklov looked anxiously at the darkening sky and at the unfamiliar forest surrounding him. Although he had been en route for Shklov just yesterday, he was hopelessly lost now. More than twenty-four hours had passed since he had lost his bearings, forcing him to wander aimlessly in the frigid cold, yet he seemed no closer to Shklov or any familiar ground. If only he could find a warm place, somewhere where he could get a hot drink and directions.

The trees suddenly began thinning and the merchant could make out the outline of houses. Gathering his strength, he turned in the direction of the little village and plodded slowly toward help. The town was cloaked in deep darkness; everyone had retired for the night. The merchant continued walking the streets until he spied a light winking in the distance, the only house in the entire village still lit up.

The merchant banged loudly on the door. He was ushered inside, made comfortable, and served a hot meal while he asked for directions to Shklov. “You are in Mezritch now,” members of the household said. Suddenly the door opened and a saintly individual appeared in the doorway. With a shudder, the merchant realized that this was none other than the Maggid of Mezritch.

The Maggid greeted the guest. “Where are you from?” he asked.

“I come from Shklov,” answered the merchant. “I was on my way home when I lost my way in the forest. I have been walking around in circles for an entire day already.”

“Nothing happens by chance,” said the Maggid. “Even blundering in the forest and arriving here is for a reason.” He donned his glasses and peered at the merchant. The merchant had heard of these glasses. It was rumored the Maggid could see from one end of the world to the other, seeing world events as one unit. In order to “contract” this all-encompassing vision and focus on a particular event, the Maggid would wear glasses and concentrate his vision on a singular aspect of the world.

“So,” the Maggid interrupted his thoughts, “your son is sick!”

The merchant nodded dumbly. His son had become sick — very sick — when he left Shklov. In fact, a lot of children were getting sick lately. “There is nothing to worry about,” said the Maggid. “I will tell you how to reach Shklov. When you get there, you’ll find your son hale and hearty. However, you must follow my instructions to the letter — otherwise, your son will become sick again and suffer the same fate as the other children.

“A totally righteous man is about to be slandered,” the Maggid continued. “You must expose the true culprit; only this will avert a tragedy.”

The merchant listened carefully as the Maggid described what was currently happening in Shklov, what would transpire in following days, and what the Maggid expected him to do. After a decent meal and some rest, the merchant set off quickly for Shklov.

The merchant arrived in Shklov and found complete pandemonium, just as the Maggid said he would. Mothers wailed loudly from behind closed doors. Men walked around grimly, their mouths murmuring T’hillim. A deadly epidemic had broken out among the Jewish children of Shklov. Children lay in every home, listless and at death’s door. Many other children had died already. Strangely though, no grown person had fallen victim to the plague — only children.

The merchant arrived home and was greeted jubilantly by his worried family. The Maggid was right — his children were all healthy. Even his son who had been so sick earlier had made a sudden and miraculous recovery. The town’s rav and leading sages had met earlier to uncover the spiritual lapse responsible for the mysterious disease, but their efforts had yet to bear fruit.

Yet, even among the misery, there was still some reason for joy. One of the wealthiest Jews in town had just had a child, and the bris was scheduled for the following day. A messenger arrived at the merchant’s home and notified him about the bris, just as the Maggid foretold.

The next day, the merchant joined the large gathering to welcome the new infant into the covenant of Avrohom Avinu. After the actual bris, the crowd sat down to partake in the seudas mitzva. The most notable members of the community graced the head table and soon the discussion turned to — what else? — the latest epidemic. This too, was just as the Maggid predicted.

Suddenly, a few prominent businessmen stood up and pointed at a certain individual. “You see him?” they shouted. “He’s the sinner! His disgusting behavior has brought calamity on our village. He’s responsible for killing our children.” They continued inflaming the crowd while they advanced upon this individual, holding out their fists and ready to hit him. The merchant caught his breath as the Maggid’s words rang in his ears: “A totally righteous man is about to be slandered. You must expose the true culprit; only this will avert a tragedy.”

The merchant jumped to his feet and ran to the businessmen. Just as one of them raised his hand to strike, the merchant grabbed his hand and began screaming wildly, loud enough to quiet the room and attract total attention. “Admit! Admit!” he said hysterically. “You are the real sinner, not him! Wicked person that you are, admit your sins and save our innocent children from dying.”

A hush fell on the crowded room. The businessman, shaken and pale, lowered his hand. “I admit,” he breathed heavily. “I am the guilty one; the children are dying because of me.”

And the plague ended. Just as the Maggid predicted.


Reb Yaakov Kadaner listened in silent amazement as the group of merchants finished relating their story. “We cannot — G-d forbid — say anything against this tzaddik,” they concluded. “True, we are against the Chassidim and their new path of worship. But how can we deny that which our eyes have seen and that which our own ears heard? The Maggid is a true tzaddik.”

Reb Yaakov returned to his place by the fire. He had, after all, been wise in staying near this group of businessman instead of leaving the room. He now had a remarkable story about the Maggid, one he would repeat again and again to spread the wonders of his holy Rebbe.

(See Sippurim Nora’im p. 26-8)


The Maggid’s words rang in his ears: “A totally righteous man is about to be slandered. You must expose the true culprit; only this will avert a tragedy.”


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