by Rabbi Sholom DovBer Avtzon
The tzaddik Reb Pinchos Koritzer once instructed one of his chassidim to go and raise funds for his (Reb Pinchos’) activities. However, this time he gave him a written list noting that he should approach only these chassidim and inform them that their Rebbe requests that they participate in this endeavor.
When he arrived at each house and showed them that the Rebbe himself wrote their name, everyone gave an extremely generous donation.
However, when he came to one house, the door was opened by the intended person’s wife, and when he asked to speak to her husband she broke out in a heart-wrenching cry. Between her sobs she related that three weeks ago, her husband left the house to go on his yearly business trip, however, two days later the boat that he was on capsized, and there are no survivors.
Additionally, she bemoaned that his body is one of the many bodies that did not wash ashore, so now she has to go to numerous rabbonim to receive a heter agunah, (a release from her marriage status, based on the fact that the boat capsized in the sea, and he definitely did not survive). This way she would be allowed to remarry and her young children will have a “father” in their life.
Therefore at this moment, she regretfully cannot participate in the tzaddik’s request and need, as she has no idea of how much money her husband owes to others etc.
The chossid returned and gave a detailed account of what each person gave, and also gave the tzaddik the notes many of them sent along with him. He then related the horrendous tale that the wife of one of his chassidim told him.
Reb Pinchos Koritzer replied, “Being that I wrote the list after the boat capsized, and Hashem put the thought in my mind to write her husband’s name, that means he is alive. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have had been given the thought to note him specifically from amongst all of my chassidim. He did not drown!”
A few weeks later, the lady came to Reb Pinchos to ask and beseech the tzaddik to declare that her status is one of a widow (as her husband definitely passed away) and that she can remarry.
Reb Pinchos joined her in her pain, however, he informed her that according to halachah one cannot automatically assume that a person who is missing in the sea is no longer alive. Especially as he believes that her husband is alive.
These words startled her, and she cried out, “How is it possible that he survived and is alive? If he is alive why didn’t he come home or at least send a letter? And on what basis does the tzaddik assume that he alone survived?”
Reb Pinchos replied, “Being that Hashem put the thought to ask your husband as one of the people to participate in this mitzvah from all of my other chassidim, that means he was alive at that time. And the list was compiled days after the boat capsized, so I am telling you, your husband is alive. Go home and you will see, he will be coming home, hopefully very soon.
Hearing these words directly from the tzaddik himself, gave the lady tremendous encouragement and boosted her spirits. The Rebbe was so confidant in what he said, it must be so.
So she went home and waited with anticipation for her husband’s return. However, as the days and weeks passed and there was no news from him, and the debtors were banging on her door that they want their money, demanding that she should begin selling off her assets, it was too much for her to bear. So a month later, she once again traveled to the tzaddik.
Reb Pinchos told her, “Your husband is alive and well. In fact, just a few hours after you left your house he arrived and is waiting for you. Concerning your question on how he survived when everyone else on the boat didn’t, you should know it was in merit of your husband’s commitment to pay for the oil in the ner tamid (an eternal flame that burns 24/7 in many shuls).
On the boat was a barrel of oil, and when the boat went under, it was floating on the water. Hashem in His tremendous kindness made the barrel float by your husband and he managed to grab hold of it and pull himself atop of it. So he floated on it for a long time until it landed on a shore. It took a long while, until he recuperated from his ordeal and was healthy enough to begin travelling home. Go in peace and may you and he be blessed.”
A feeling of jubilation replaced the heavy load that was on her shoulder and she rushed home and indeed found her husband healthy and hale.
I heard this story during a farbrengen from Rabbi Mangel. He added, Reb Pinchos declared that since the thought entered his mind to mention this person’s name that is a definite proof that he is alive. So how much more so is it when it comes to the point that the Rebbe mentioned to us numerous times that higiah zman geulaschem – that the time of your redemption has arrived. Yes it is over 25 years since he said it. But just as to that woman, each day felt like a year and each week felt like eternity, yet the truth is, that what a tzaddik says it is so.
So being that the Rebbe told us so – it is so.
So as we farbreng this week and recall chof zayin Adar, let us remember that the Rebbe informed us of this point – and that is the reality.
This weeks’ story is lzchus our great-nephew Yonah ben Shterna Sarah l’arichus yomim v’shonim tovim.
Rabbi Avtzon is a veteran mechanech and the author of numerous books on the Rebbeim and their chassidim. He is available to farbreng in your community and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org