Chassidic Story #103

(s5760-03/ posted 19 Tishrei)

The UMBRELLA PARADE

The pasha summoned Rabbi Moshe Galante, who had moved from Tsfat around 1655 and was now one of Jerusalem’s leading rabbis 

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THE UMBRELLA PARADE

Centuries ago, before the days of water pipes and irrigation, the residents of Jerusalem were dependent for all their water needs on the large cisterns they had dug out and lined. The winter rains would annually fill the cisterns, and the people would draw water from them the entire year.

Once, in the early decades of the 5400's, there was a serious drought. One by one the winter months came and went, yet the skies remained as clear and pure blue as on a pleasant summer day. The earth was dry and cracked in the unyielding gardens and fields, and the water level of the cisterns was dropping at an alarming rate.

More days passed. Already the winter season was drawing to an end, but still, no rain. Even the elders of the city couldn't recall such a rainless year as this.

Jews, Moslems and Christians alike became increasingly worried. The dread specter of famine now loomed in addition to the immediate problem of water shortage. They gathered in their respective Houses of Prayer and prayed to the Al-mighty to have mercy on the holy city and its inhabitants. The rabbis of Jerusalem proclaimed days of fasting and special prayers. Hundreds of Jews made the excursion to the tomb of Rachel the Matriarch to light candles and pray for rain. Others went to the burial place of King David on nearby Mount Zion to beseech there.

But, no rain. The cisterns had almost completely dried up, yet the heavenly sluices were still sealed shut. Not a cloud marred the perfectly blue sky. It was so close to springtime and the end of the rain season that many Jerusalemites were already girding themselves for a difficult, perhaps life threatening, period of famine and water shortage.

All the worries generated a stream of rumors, and the rumors in turn led to increased tension between the different ethnic groups in the holy city. The Arabs started to blame the Jews for the lack of rain. This obvious choice of scapegoat required no accompanying reason or explanation for its acceptance to quickly spread throughout the Muslim community, and quickly became an absolute certainty in all their minds.

The instigation against the Jews eventually reached the palace of the pasha, the governor, of the Jerusalem district of the Ottoman empire. Indeed, certain Jew-haters made it a point to repeatedly bring this 'information' to his attention.

Soon thereafter, the pasha summoned the famed scholar and kabbalist, R. Moshe Galante, who had moved from Tsfat around 1655 and was now one of Jerusalem's leading rabbis, to appear before him. The rabbi entered with foreboding. Sure enough, as he feared, the pasha said, "I know that it is solely because of you Jews that G-d has not let it rain in Jerusalem. You people like to glorify yourselves that you are his chosen people; you call Him 'Father' and refer to yourselves as 'His children.' Therefore you are totally to blame.

"So I am warning you. You people had better pray seriously to your god. If it doesn't rain by the end of three days, it will be clear that it is all the fault of the Jews; I shall expel every single one of you from Jerusalem."

As soon as Rabbi Galante left the palace, he called an emergency meeting in the main synagogue, emphasizing that all the Jewish residents of Jerusalem should attend.

Everybody came. Their faces reflected their worry over the situation. The whole population knew that Rabbi Galante had been summoned to the governor. When he informed them what had transpired, they groaned under this new burden. Was the trial of thirst they had already started to undergo not enough? Now they also had to have the wrath of the pasha and the entire Arab population hovering over them?

Rabbi Galante declared a three-day fast, with the time to be spent in prayer and pleading before the Al-mighty, in the hope of abolishing the evil decree.

A spirit of gloom descended upon the Jews of Jerusalem as the possibility of expulsion from the holy city loomed before them. With broken hearts and flowing tears they crowded together in the shuls to recite Psalms and pray for mercy from Above. Many also went down to stand before the Western Wall and exert themselves in further supplications. 'G-d, have pity on Your poor suffering people in Your holy city.'

One day passed, and a second. On the third day the skies were as blue and cloudless as ever. Dread descended into the hearts of all the Jews-men, women and children-and further stimulated their prayers. Hungry and thirsty, still fasting, surely their desperate cries pierced through all the heavens.

The sun marched inexorably across the sky, and now stood in the western sector of the sky. The final hours of the afternoon were slowly dwindling. Rabbi Galante announced that everyone should proceed together outside the city walls to the tomb of Shimon HaTzaddik, the great sage and high priest from the early years of the Second Temple, and there to pray one last time for rain. He also made another demand that startled all that were present. Nobody could believe what they imagined they had heard.

What he had said was that everyone should put on their galoshes or boots, wear raincoats, and have umbrellas in hand! Why? Lest they get drenched in the expected downpour!

Despite their shock and amazement, everyone complied faithfully. At the designated time the Jews of Jerusalem left the city through Damascus Gate, dressed in their boots and raincoats, and carrying umbrellas. When the police officer in charge of the area saw this strange parade, he burst into laughter. But then, when he heard they were marching through the streets dressed in their raingear only because their rabbi had ordered them to do so and promised them a heavy rainstorm, he became furious. He caught up to the rabbi, slapped him severely in the face, and screamed: "The people of the city are suffering so much, and you dare to waste their time and strength in such foolishness!"

Rabbi Galante disdained to respond, and kept walking.

When they arrived at the gravesite, the rabbi prostrated himself on the tombstone and remained there, immersed in profound concentration. All the other people cried out in prayer from the depths of their hearts.

Suddenly, they realized that a breeze was blowing-a soft, gentle breeze, but still...a breeze! Then, rather quickly, the breeze became a real wind, which began to blow furiously. A storm wind!

The sky turned grey and filled with dark clouds. A few raindrops were felt. Then it began to drizzle, and soon after that to pour. The Jews opened their umbrellas. In no time at all, they were in the mist of a torrential shower. They joyfully hurried to take shelter under trees and next to the nearby houses.

Peering through the deluge, they saw to their surprise a man running as fast as he could in the rain towards them. It was the police officer! By the time he reached them, he was so thoroughly soaked he seemed to be made more of water than of solid flesh. He made straight for Rabbi Galante and threw himself down in the mud before his feet. "Forgive me, please, for how I insulted you," he begged. "I didn't realize you were such a great, holy person."

In order to display his sincerity and make amends, he lifted the rabbi onto his shoulders, marched with him at the head of the Jewish procession back to town, and carried him all the way to the door of his house.

The rainstorm continued all the night. By dawn, all the cisterns were filled to overflowing. Later in the morning, the pasha himself came and apologized for threatening to expel the Jews. He proffered more words of appeasement and then stated emotionally, "Now I know that your L-rd is the true G-d, and that you Jews really are his treasured people."

Translated-Adapted from Sichat Hashavuah #204--- 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.

Biographical note:
Rabbi Moshe ben Yonatan Galante
moved from Tsfat to Jerusalem around the year 1655. He was the grandson of Rabbi Moshe ben Mordechai Galente, who was one of four scholars of Zefat (along with Rabbi Yosef Caro, author of Shulchan Aruch) to receive semicha from Rabbi Yaakov Beirav in the 'renewal of semicha' controversy.

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