CROWN HEIGHTS [CHI] — Descendants of the Shpoler Zayde, Rabbi Yehuda Leib, gathered for the annual Seudah commemorating the miraculous saving of his life on the 19th of Shvat 218 years ago. At his requests the entire family hold a Seudah celebrating his great miracle.
by Mordecai Ben-Kalman
THE SHPOLER ZAYDE’S “SEUDA”
(The story of “Yud-Tes Shvat” – the 19th of Shvat)
The annual Seuda is celebrated by the entire Mishpacha (family) world-over, on the nineteenth day of the month of Shvat. This is done, at the Zayde’s request, to commemorate the miraculous saving of his life on that day. The story is related as follows:
In the year 1793, the Shpoler Zayde was in the town of Boguslav, about half-way between Shpole and Kiev. The river Ros divides the town of Boguslav. In this town, on the other side of the river, a son was born to one of the villagers and the Bris (circumcision) was to be on a Friday, the nineteenth day of Shvat. The father of the child invited the Shpoler Zayde to be at the Bris, as Mohel or Sandek.
In those days river travel was accomplished during the winter months by sled and during the summer months by rowboat or ferry. There were periods between winter and spring when ice packs made boat travel impossible, yet there were many spots where the ice was not frozen enough to sustain a sled filled with passengers, making river crossing a dangerous undertaking. That Friday, the nineteenth of Shvat, happened to be one of those dangerous times to cross the rIver.
The Shpoler Zayde, traveling in a sled, safely crossed the Ros River on his way to the Bris. However, upon his return, the ice broke, endangering the lives of everyone riding in the sled. At this moment, the Zayde saw, that in Heaven, a terrible decree was proclaimed against him. He cried out to all the Chassidim present: “Whoever wishes to replace me, I promise him ”Olam Haba“ (the world to come)!” Whoever would give his life for the Shpoler Zayde would be guaranteed a place in the world to come.
“I wish to replace the Zayde!”, shouted his “Gabbai” (beadle) Yollek. And so it was; his “Gabbai” Yollek drowned and the Shpoler Zayde was spared.
That Friday evening, the Zayde did not signal to start the Shabbos services at the scheduled time (It was the Zayde’s custom to pray in a private room within the regular Shu!, when he was ready to pray, he would open the door, motion to the assembled to start the services and pray along with the Minyan). While all the congregants were puzzled at the unusual delay, no one dared disturb the Zayde to find out its cause.
After several hours past the regular time for Kabolas Shabbos services, some of the elders finally gathered enough courage. With great reverence, they approached the Zayde’s room, knocked lightly on the door and informed him of the late hour. “I don’t yet see Yollek in Gan Eden (Paradise)”, the Zayde replied. A while later the Zayde opened the door and said: “Yollek is already in Gan Eden – start the services.”
The following year, the Zayde instructed that all his children, grandchildren and future descendants should make an annual Seuda on the nineteenth day of Shvat, thanking the Almighty for the miracle that saved his life. The Zayde mentioned that no waiters should be hired for the occasion, rather everyone should be personally involved. He also emphasized the importance of inviting poor people to this Seuda.