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Story: The Scholar Who Shamed the Water Carrier

In conjunction with the siyum Sefer Torah that the Mangel family is making this Tuesday, the 11th of Cheshvan,  in honor of Rabbi Nissan Mangel’s birthday, l’arichas yomim v’shonim tovim for him and the entire family, Rabbi Sholom Dovber Avtzon relates the following story about a siyum Sefer Torah:

In a town near Mezibuzh lived a Jew, a talmid chocham, who decided that it would be appropriate for him to write a new Sefer Torah in honor of a certain event. Being that he was also quite well-to-do, he wanted it to be done in the best possible way, sparing no expense.

So he commissioned an experienced sofer (scribe), who was known as a yurei shoymayim (a G-d fearing individual) to write the Sefer Torah. He gave him money upfront and instructed him to obtain the most mehudar parchment possible and not to rush the writing. Everything should be done in the best way.

When the sofer informed him that it was almost completed, the person chose a date for its completion and publicized the event, inviting all the townspeople to participate in this joyous occasion and to also partake in the seudas mitzvah that will be given after the hachnasa of the new Sefer Torah.

In those days, a siyum Sefer Torah was a rarity and became the talk of town, everyone eagerly anticipating it.

Preparing a meal for the entire town was no small feat and he hired people to help putting it together. Amongst those hired was the local water carrier that was asked to bring enough water that could fill up a few barrels, in order that there will be enough water to cook the food, for everyone to wash their hands, as well as to drink.

The water carrier considered himself a simple Jew, since he never had the opportunity to be taught Torah properly. The only thing he was taught was how to read the siddur as well as how a proper Jew is expected to conduct himself. Being that he never had formal teaching he always sat in the back of the shul, together with the other laborers and occupied himself in his spare time with reciting Tehillim. He became so proficient in Tehillim that he knew the entire Tehillim by heart and would recite the chapters as he was carrying the water.

Many people became to admire him and indeed speak of him respectfully; some even stated that because of his Tehillim, their town was not affected with certain diseases that ravaged other nearby towns. But he continued to consider himself nothing special.

That day he had to make extra trips to the river in order to bring all the necessary water and by the time he finished, he was exhausted. So after the last letters were written and he joyously participated in the initial dancing together with everyone else, he sat down at a table which was in the back and took some food to eat.

The host was fearful that everyone will also stop dancing and sit down to eat something, so he rushed over to him; Not realizing how exhausted the water carrier was, he began berating him. “Why can’t you wait another few minutes until all of the hakofos are concluded? Or do you think that you are so special and deserve to be allowed to eat before everyone else, because of your reciting of the entire Tehillim everyday? As great as that is, it doesn’t make you a mi’yuchis (someone special)!”

The tirade went on for only a few moments, but the water carrier was so embarrassed, he felt everyone was looking at him and he shamefully quickly made a brocha achrona and left the shul area.

The hakofos continued and to the hosts’ pleasure everyone sat down and enjoyed the festive and bountiful seudah  that was prepared and the ‘little’ incident about the water carrier was forgotten about.

When the seudah was over, the host sat down to learn his daily shiurim (lessons). But to his consternation he became drowsy and soon fell asleep. In his sleep he had a dream that he was walking in a forest. The forest was one that he had never seen, it was enchanting, in fact it almost had the appearance of a beautiful garden. As he continued his walk, he noticed a shiny house afar. Coming closer to it, he saw had a majestic look to it and he began contemplating should he enter it or not.

While he was considering this question, he suddenly heard a voice announcing, make way for Dovid the King of Israel. A few moments later, the same voice announced “Bo’acheim L’Sholom (welcome), Dovid melech Yisroel.”

He couldn’t believe it, where am I that I am so close to Dovid Hamelech. Maybe I should enter the house to actually see him? But before he could decide, the voice again announced, “Make way for Reb Yisroel Baal Shem Tom,” followed a few moments later by the announcement of “Bo’acheim L’Sholom, Reb Yisroel Baal Shem Tov.”

He them heard the Baal Shem Tov respectfully inquire, “King of Israel, why was I summoned?”

Dovid Hamelech replied, “I have a din Torah against a Jew in a neighboring city of yours and being that you are known  to be a meilitz yoishor (an  advocate) on behalf of all Jews, you will represent the defendant and be his defender.”

At that point, the Court asked Dovid Hamelech to present his claim.

Dovid Hamelech replied, “Today that Jew made a siyum Sefer Torah and insulted and embarrassed a Jew who recites daily the entire Tehillim. One of the comments he said was, “Do you think that your Tehillim makes you so special?” he was mocking the greatness of A Jews’ Tehillim, while Hashem accepted my prayer that one who recites Tehillim should be considered as if he learned the laws of taharos (purity) and Ohulos (an impurity inside a building or under a covering) in their minutest detail. So while Hashem gave this persons’ Tehillim saying importance, he mocked it.

A member of the Court remarked, so you are asking us to decide if this blatant disrespect and his disparaging words against the saying of Tehillim warrant that the person should deserve to pass away (misa bidei shumayim)?

Hearing this statement, the Baal Shem Tov, said he was summoned to speak on behalf of the defendant and would like to speak.

The Court nodded in agreement and the Baal Shem Tov began saying. I don’t agree with such a decision. How would that person’s death rectify the damage down? How would people know that he died because of those statements that he said to the pious water carrier, belittling his rectal of Tehillim? Everyone would just say how sad it is that he passed on.

My advice is that the Court should decree that the Jew make another large feast, equal to the one he made and once again invite all the townspeople to participate. Out of curiosity everyone would attend and there in front of everyone he apologizes to the water carrier for his harsh words and explain to all the greatness and importance of reciting the verses and chapters of Tehillim by each and every Jew. This will accomplish so much more, especially if he informs them that he is doing so because of this out of the world vision that he experienced!!” stated the Baal Shem Tov.

True, replied the Court, but the person might be embarrassed to publically state he was wrong in his words and conduct. How do we know he agrees to your solution? Aaahh, but he is standing outside, so we will ask him which option he prefers.

A second later a messenger of the Court appeared to him and asked him what his response was, as to which option he prefers? He said he accepts the words of the tzaddik, the Baal Shem Tov.

When the messenger gave over these words to the Court, an accusing angel stood up in protest. How can he say he listens to the great tzaddik Reb Yisroel Baal Shem Tov, when he lives in close proximity to Mezibuzh and yet he never visited the tzaddik even when he travelled through Mezibuzh! In fact there were some times he commented against him. Slighting a tzaddik is punishable by death and it definitely should not be allowed to save him from the punishment he deserves for his terrible words and action.

Once again the Baal Shem Tov spoke up on behalf of the person and said, “How will his death won’t rectify the situation. As noted earlier no-one would connect it to his lack of respect. If it is indeed because he disrespected me, the solution should be that he should now show respect.”

Once again the messenger of the Court asked him, which decision he preferred and as soon as he responded that he will visit the Baal Shem Tov, he awoke.

Shaken to the core he went home. His family saw he was shaking and was pale. After making sure that he sat down, had a drink and was comfortable they asked him what happened.

He told them the entire dream and asked that they immediately obtain for him a wagon as he wishes to go to the water carrier without any delay and ask, in fact plead for his forgiveness.

The water carrier held no grudge and immediately forgave him and the next day by the second meal he was sitting at the head table next to the host and the other scholars of the town. The host publically apologized for his words and then related his wondrous dream, extoling the importance of reciting Tehillim every free moment.

He then travelled to Mezibuzh and was startled when he saw the Baal Shem Tov. This was the same person he saw in the dream. A few moments passed until he was able to compose himself, he than said “Rebbe, I have a story to tell you.”

The Baal Shem Tov answered, there is no need to say it, as I saw you there and defended you.

Seeing this pure ruach hakodesh, the person remained in Mezibuzh for a while and became a follower and chossid of the Baal Shem Tov.

While this story is about a siyum Sefer Torah that went awry, one should realize that participating in a siyum Sefer Torah  is a great thing and can bring tremendous yeshuos (help and indeed salvation) for all the participants.

Once there was a terrible epidemic afflicting the city of Mezibuzh. People were afflicted with various sicknesses and many of them succumbed. It was affecting everyone equally, young and old alike. The townspeople turned to the Baal Shem Tov, imploring him to pray on their behalf and intercede in Heaven for their well-being.

The Baal Shem Tov replied I can not help you; your salvation can only come from you yourselves. We say everyday in the shemoineh esreh, u’ci’he l’ratzon tomid avodas Yisroel ahmehcha. The simple translation is ‘“May the avodah (service) of Your nation, B’nei Yisroel, always be wanted by You.’ However, it can also be explained,” said the Baal Shem Tov, “The service of Your nation Yisroel, shall constantly create a new will for You. Nowadays a Jews avodah is with the letters of the Torah and davenning and Tehillim. That can be accomplished either by learning and/or davenning or by writing a Sefer Torah. My advice is that the he town should write a Sefer Torah and everyone should participate in it and then all the sicknesses will stop, as it will create a new will by Hashem.”

The townspeople all agreed to do so and as soon as Reb Reuvan the sofer wrote a few columns not only did no one become afflicted with a disease, but even those who were extremely sick regained their health.

So to may this Sefer Torah bring yeshuos to our entire community, to all anash and indeed to all of Israel, in all of their needs, including the ultimate yeshua of taking us all out of this golus and we will sing a shir chodesh with the coming of Moshiach Tzidkeinu, speedily in our days.


  • lifelight

    Thank you for the beautiful stories and the chizuk they bring. May we all learn from them, and may this worthy event indeed bring yeshuos & refuos and achdus to the whole community, and arichas yamim and shanim tovim to Rabbi Mangel sheyichiyeh and his whole family.