When the Poritz told a Pesach Story


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    When the Poritz told a Pesach Story

    Sarah awoke with a start. Who was crying in the next room? She tiptoed to the door and peeked inside. The room was dark, with just a small candle flickering on the table. On a nearby chair, her husband Yankel* swayed back and forth over an open siddur • By Baila BrikmanBeis Moshiach Magazine • Full Story

    By Baila Brikman, Beis Moshiach

    Sarah* awoke with a start. Who was crying in the next room? She tiptoed to the door and peeked inside.

    The room was dark, with just a small candle flickering on the table. On a nearby chair, her husband Yankel* swayed back and forth over an open siddur.

    Why was he out of bed? It was 12:00 at night!

    Sarah stood by the doorway quietly, listening to his tefillos. It sounded like he was mourning the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash!

    Sarah went back into her bed, but she couldn’t fall asleep. They had just gotten married, and she was beginning to realize that something about her husband was different. Why did he do so many strange things?

    At dawn, Sarah saw Yankel leave the house with a towel slung over his shoulder. He must be going to the mikva, she realized worriedly. She got dressed and began to do some housework.

    As she straightened up their beds, she noticed a small book hiding under her husband’s pillow.

    This was too much for her. She ran to her parents’ house and began to cry.

    “Father, I don’t understand what is going on!” she sobbed. “I thought I married a fine young man, but it seems that he is hiding things from me! He has very strange customs, like getting up to daven in the middle of the night and going to the mikva each morning. And he is also hiding something under his pillow!”

    Sarah’s father stood up angrily. “I will find out what is going on!” he declared. He marched over to Sarah’s home and grabbed the book from under the pillow. “What’s this?!” he gasped. “It’s the sefer Toldos Yaakov Yosef, written by a talmid of the Baal Shem Tov!”

    “Do you know how terrible the talmidim of the Baal Shem Tov are?” her father fumed to Sarah. “They call themselves Chassidim, and they act in strange ways! Who knows what they will do next? We have to stay far away from them!”

    Sarah stared at her father in shock. His face was turning purple with anger! “How dare he learn this book?” He yelled. “My own son-in-law is a Chassid? I’ll set him straight!”

    He ran over to the young man and screamed and screamed. But no matter how much he tried to convince him that Chassidus was terrible, he wasn’t convinced.

    “My dear father-in-law,” Yankel said respectfully, “I know that all the Yidden in this town think that Chassidus is bad. They believe the terrible stories they hear about Chassidim, but I can tell you that those stories aren’t true! I have learned Chassidus, so I know that its ways are true. It’s the best way to serve Hashem!”

    Sarah’s father realized that all his screaming hadn’t helped. Yankel still believed that Chassidus was good! He decided to speak to him in a more gentle way. He spoke calmly to his son-in-law, describing how Chassidus was bad.

    Yankel still wasn’t convinced.

    “That’s it!” Sarah’s father banged on the table. “I demand that you divorce my daughter! She cannot be married to a Chassid!”

    Yankel blinked. “I am devoted to the ways of Chassidus and the holy Bal Shem Tov,” he said firmly, “and I will be a good husband to your daughter. I will not divorce her.”

    Sarah’s father stormed out of the room. He slammed the door behind him and stomped on the ground. How could he save his daughter from being married to a Chassid? It was an embarrassment to his family!

    He went to his friends and asked for their advice. “My son-in-law is a Chassid,” he said, almost spitting in disgust. “What should I do?”

    His friends were horrified to hear the news. “Force him to divorce your daughter!” one yelled.

    “No, don’t do that!” cried another. “That will cause halachic problems!”

    “Offer him tons of money to divorce her,” another advised.

    It was the talk of the town. All the Yidden were arguing between themselves. What was the best way to get rid of Yankel? There was so much commotion, it reached the ears of the local Poritz!

    “Go find out why these Jews are arguing all day,” he barked to his servants. “I’m losing patience with them!”

    The servants went into town and snooped around until they found out what happened. “It seems that someone’s son-in-law is reading a certain book, sir,” they told the Poritz. “The whole town is very upset about it!”

    “That’s strange,” he muttered. “Why would they get so upset about someone reading a book? Is it against their Torah?”

    “The Rabbi who wrote it was a student of the Baal Shem Tov,” the servants explained. “The Jews in our town don’t like the Chassidim, so they are very upset that this young man is learning his teachings.”

    “So, who is this Rabbi who wrote the book?” the Poritz demanded.

    “It was written by Rabbi Yaakov Yosef Hakohen, sir. He was a famous Rabbi who lived in the town of Polonnoye.”

    The Poritz gasped. “I know that man! I actually met him! Go bring me the book at once!”

    His servants rushed to get the book and brought it to the Poritz. Right there, on the front cover, was the name of the author: Rabbi Yaakov Yosef Hakohen.

    The Poritz stared at the cover for a long time deep in thought and then looked up. “Bring those Jews to me,” he finally said. “I will put an end to all of their fighting.”


    Nervously, the Yidden of the town entered the Poritz’s palace. What did he want from them?

    He greeted them roughly and sat in his big, comfy chair. “The time has now come for me to tell you all a story,” he announced. “Listen carefully:

    “Many years ago, I had a top position in the army. One winter, my soldiers were camped near the town of Polonnoye. The general ordered that we should move to a new location, so I gathered all of my soldiers together. When I counted them, I noticed that three soldiers were missing! Where could they be? I ordered a few soldiers to go and find them.

    “After a while, they came back and told me a ridiculous story: The three soldiers were frozen in place inside of a rabbi’s house! They couldn’t walk or talk!

    “Of course, I didn’t believe their strange story. I sent more men to look for the missing soldiers, but they all came back and told me the same thing.

    “I decided to go into town and see what was happening for myself. As soon as I entered the Rabbi’s house and saw him sitting at the table, I started to tremble. He looked like an angel from heaven! Sure enough, the missing soldiers were standing right there, frozen in place. It looked like they were nailed to the floor!

    “I finally gathered the courage to speak. ‘Holy rabbi,’ I stammered, ‘my soldiers need to leave your house so they can join the rest of our group. Can you please help them leave?’

    “The old rabbi looked at me with his piercing eyes. ‘They have stolen things from my home. If you remove the stolen objects from their pockets, they will be able to leave.’

    “I was so embarrassed to hear that my soldiers were thieves! Sure enough, their pockets were stuffed with silver objects. As soon as we emptied their pockets, two of the soldiers became unstuck and were able to move. But one was still frozen in place! We checked inside his boots and found a silver cup. We took it out, and he was finally freed.”


    All this had taken place on Leil Shimurim, the night of the Pesach Seder! When the Seder was over, Rabbi Yaakov Yosef had stayed by the table while the rest of his family went to bed. He sat and thought about the greatness of Hashem and deep secrets in Torah.

    Meanwhile, those three soldiers had passed by the house and peeked inside the windows. They saw an old man sitting by a table full of sparkling silver dishes and cups. To their delight, it looked like the man was sleeping.

    They decided to go in and steal everything! When they tried the door, they couldn’t believe their luck: it was open! After all, it was Leil Shimurim. We don’t lock our doors on that night, because Hashem gives us extra protection.

    Greedily, they gobbled up the leftover matza and stuffed their pockets with treasures. But when they wanted to leave, their feet wouldn’t budge.They couldn’t move, and they couldn’t speak.


    The Poritz continued his story:

    “When I saw those soldiers frozen in place next to a holy rabbi, I realized that he was a very special man. I asked him to bless me with children and long life, and he blessed me. Then, I asked him to tell me when I would pass away.

    “He told me that the day of a person’s death is always kept a secret, but he would give me a hint. ‘Towards the end of your life, you will have a chance to speak about me to Jews who didn’t know me,’ he said.

    “The rabbi’s blessings were fulfilled,” declared the Poritz. “I had children, and you can see that I lived a long life.”

    He looked around at the audience in front of him. “Now tell me,” he said softly, “do any of you still want to say bad things about this rabbi and the book that he wrote? Do any of you still believe that it is wrong to learn the teachings of such a holy man? I order you to make peace between yourselves at once! He was a very holy man. Anyone who thinks otherwise does not know the truth.”

    All the Yidden in the room bowed their heads in shame. Had they known what a great tzaddik Reb Yaakov Yosef Hakohen was, they would have never started up with Yankel! Why, they might have even learned the sefer themselves! Of course, they all agreed to make peace.

    “I have told you all about the holy rabbi’s greatness, just as he said I would,” the Poritz concluded with a sad smile. “That means that I will pass away soon…”

    Sure enough, just a few months later, the elderly Poritz passed away.

    From that day on, no one ever bothered Yankel again. The Yidden of the town respected his ways and were much more friendly towards Chassidim.

    *Not their real names


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    1. Gershon S.

      Wow!!! Great Story!!!!

    2. Meir

      We All Love Story Time!!

    3. Chaim B

      My kids always look Forward to the weekly stories

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