#102 (s5760-02/12 Tishrei)
The Rebbe, R. Chaim Meir Yechiel
Shapira of Mogelnitz , stared at the vision in front of him
Every year, immediately after Rosh Hashana, Rabbi Chaim Meir Yechiel
Shapira of Mogelnitz used to seek a trusty messenger in his town for a special
mission. First, he would turn over to him a significant sum of money, carefully
bundled. Then, after reminding him that he was being sent not just on behalf of
the Rebbe and his family but for the benefit of the entire community, he would
give him a set of specific instructions.
In those days in Europe, good-quality
esrogim were very difficult to come by. In many towns and villages, as in this
one, there would be just one esrog for the entire Jewish populace. The Rebbe always
instructed his agent to locate and purchase a beautiful esrog- hadar as the Torah
calls it-not to spare any effort to locate and acquire absolutely the best one
One year it was extremely difficult to find a good esrog. There
were only a few esrogim to be found at all, and the agent that had been sent that
year recognized right away that they were all far from satisfying the Rebbe's
requirements. Full of stains and blemishes, how could they possibly be considered
Day after day the agent went from city to town, from town to
village, but still was unable to find anything remotely suitable. As the Sukkos
festival approached and the agent was still empty-handed and far from home, he
became increasingly anxious. Would this be the first year that his fellow townsmen
and their esteemed rebbe would not get to bless and perform the mitzvah with an
Shuddering, he realized that he would have to turn back
towards home if he were to arrive on time for Sukkos. He decided to return via
a route that would take him to a few towns that he hadn't been to yet. He would
have to buy the first esrog he came across, even if it were plain or ugly. As
long as it was minimally kosher. It was unthinkable that the community should
remain without any esrog at all!
Late in the day he arrived at a certain
village and immediately turned into the small shul there, to pray Mincha. While
there, he heard two of the local men talking, "Hey! Did you hear about wealthy
Almoni? This year he managed to buy the most beautiful excellent esrog-a real
The agent hurriedly ascertained the exact whereabouts of
Mr. Almoni. He speeded to the address as fast as he could, and then stood for
a moment to catch his breath at the doorstep of the magnificent house. Mouthing
a silent prayer, his hand shook slightly as he reached up to knock on the door.
A servant admitted him, and showed him into the rich man's study. The agent
hesitated for a long moment. What should he say? How could he possibly convince
this stranger to part with the esrog? Certainly a man like that wasn't going to
be interested in the money he was carrying around in his scrawny pouch!
he could do was express his sincere feelings. He explained to his host about how
the one that sent him was a genuine tsaddik, an exalted person for whom maximization
of every mitzvah-performing it in a manner of hidur-was an integral indispensable
aspect of life. He himself had been travelling day and night scouring the country
in an unsuccessful attempt to find an appropriately outstanding esrog for his
rebbe. "Please," he concluded with a plea, "have mercy on this
holy Jew. Why, he may even get sick from the disappointment if I return empty-handed.
Besides, you will have a share in his great merit."
Almoni turned him
down flat. He wasn't interested in any offers or explanations. The agent continued
Then, something changed. The wealthy householder's face and stance
seemed to soften slightly. He sat silently for a few minutes, thinking deeply.
Then he spoke.
"You say your Rabbi is a big tsaddik? That he is head
and shoulders above the rest of us and that all his life he has always performed
mitvos in the most elevated manner possible?"
A ray of hope sparked
in the agent's heart. "Yes! Yes," he exclaimed. "It's true."
so, perhaps we can do business," said the rich man.
any price you ask," the agent blurted excitedly.
"Money is not
the issue here," answered Almoni quietly. "I paid a handsome sum for
this glorious esrog. Thank G-d, I can afford it. And I was happy to do so. I am
always prepared to spend generously in order to enhance a mitzvah, but there is
one thing I cannot buy. All these years, and I have no children.
he continued, "I am prepared to give you my expensive incomparable esrog,
but not for money. My non-negotiable price is that your holy rabbi should bless
me to have a son, and that his blessing should come true within a reasonable period
of time. If it comes to be, then the esrog is my gift to him. But if not, then
retroactively your great rabbi and all his people will have blessed invalidly
on an esrog that is not theirs."
The rich man looked the Rebbe's representative
in the eye. "Do you agree? Do we have a deal?"
The silence grew
and permeated the room as the stunned agent considered how to respond. Finally
he came to the conclusion that really he had no choice, and accepted the proposed
conditions. Receiving the esrog from the hand of its wealthy former owner, he
set off straight for home.
The Rebbe carefully removed the covering, opened
the box, and gingerly unwound the flax tresses. Before his eyes was one of the
most splendid, perfect esrogs he had ever beheld. His joy knew no bounds. Or so
it seemed, until the agent told him the conditions of the "transaction."
Then his ardor cooled instantly. He slowly re-wrapped the esrog. Then he bent
forward, and held his face in his hands.
For a long time Rabbi Chaim Meir
Yechiel sat absolutely still, engulfed in his lofty thoughts. When at last he
removed his hands and stood up from his chair, his face was pale, but a secret
twinkle could be detected in his eyes.
"All right," he stated
softly but firmly. "I accept upon myself this difficult condition. I will
do that which I am able and bless Almoni the rich man that he and his wife should
have a son. Now it is up to the Al-mighty to do His part."
A year later,
on Erev Rosh Hashana, a small package arrived addressed to the Rebbe. Inside was
an esrog of superior quality, along with a note in the handwriting of Almoni that
announced that a son had been born to him and his wife in early Elul [a few weeks
before], and thanked the Rabbi for his blessing that had come to fruition.
Rebbe was overjoyed at the news. For him it was a two-fold celebration. Not only
had the long-suffering couple been blessed with a child, finally he could fully
rejoice over his mitzvah of the Four Species of the previous Sukkos, which now
no longer had a shadow of doubt cast over it.
From then on, each year the
Rebbe would receive sometime before Sukkos a beautiful esrog from the grateful
Almoni. One year, the messenger who delivered the esrog was a teenaged yeshiva
student. This time, however, the usual message that accompanied the delivery was
phrased a bit differently.
"I have here the excellent esrog which
my father requested of me to deliver to the honorable Rabbi," said the young
The Rabbi, Chaim Meir Yechiel, now well into middle age,
stared at the vision in front of him. Tears welled up in his eyes. He extended
one hand to receive the box with the esrog and, full of emotion, placed the other
on the boy's head.
"Not only are you the bearer of an esrog,"
he said warmly, "you are the son of an esrog!"
by Yrachmiel Tilles from Sichat Hashavuah #563--You may pass on this email rendition
to whomever you wish as long as you give full credit, including Ascent's email
and internet addresses, but PLEASE DO NOT PUBLISH THIS STORY IN PRINT OR ELECTRONIC
FORM WITHOUT EXPLICIT PERMISSION.] )
Chaim Meir Yechiel Shapira of Mogelnitz (?-5 Iyar 5609/1849) was raised and
taught by his maternal grandfather, the Koznitzer Maggid. He married the
granddaughter of the Rebbe R. Elimelech of Lyzhinsk. He was also the disciple
of four leading figures of his generation: the rebbes of Lublin, Pesichah,
Apta, and Ruzhin.
Yrachmiel Tilles is co-founder and associate director of Ascent-of-Safed,
and editor of Ascent Quarterly and the AscentOfSafed.com and KabbalaOnline.org
websites. He has hundreds of published stories to his credit.back
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