#106 (s5760-06 / posted 10 MaCheshvan 5760)

The Farmer Method

"Are you qualified to recognize lofty souls? queried the Rebbe Maharash



A Chabad chassid from the Slonim family in the Holy Land once sailed to White Russia to visit the Lubavitcher Rebbe of that time, the Maharash, who was also his relative. The Rebbe asked him many questions about the situation of the Jews in the Land. While answering, the chassid commented, "I don't understand what is written in certain books that in the Holy land dwell lofty souls. I knew the Jews there, and I haven't seen that they are more special than the Jews here."

"Oh, are you qualified to recognize lofty souls?" remarked the Rebbe. "Here, let me tell you a story that I heard from my father, the Rebbe of blessed memory, about a simple Jew in the Land of Israel.

There was once a Jewish farmer who lived just outside of Jerusalem. He did not know how to study Torah, nor did he even understand the words of the prayers that he said everyday. In fact, he couldn't grasp the order of the prayers-to tell him that there was a different Psalm each day and longer Tachanun penitential prayers on Monday and Thursday than on the other weekdays, except on those days when they are not said at all, left him hopelessly confused. Instead, when he came to the city once a week to sell his produce, he would go to a certain one of the local rabbis, who would write down for him the order of the prayers for each of the seven days to come.

One year, in the month of Mar-Cheshvan, when the rainy season usually begins after the petition for rain is added to the thrice-a-day daily prayers on the 7th of the month, he asked the rabbi to list for him two weeks' worth. He explained that because of the bad road conditions caused by the winter rains, he would now come only once every two weeks.

It turned out, however, that he came to Jerusalem the next week anyway. He had something pressing to attend to, and besides, it hadn't rained. When he arrived, he halted his donkey in shock: all the Jewish stores were closed!

The simple fellow was seized by anxiety. Could he possibly have miscounted the days? G-d have mercy! Was it Shabbat today? He stood motionless. What to do?

Looking around, he saw a solitary Jew on the street, walking along with his tallit and tefillin under his arm. "Thank G-d!" the farmer intoned; "It can't be Shabbat if he is carrying tefillin!"

But if so, why were the stores closed and the street deserted? He approached the strolling Jew he had spotted and asked him what was going on. The man told him that it was a public fast-day.

Now he felt distressed again. A fast day? But he had already eaten! And failed to say the appropriate extra prayers too. Why hadn't the rabbi warned him the week before?

Abandoning his donkey and wagon right in the middle of the marketplace where he had stopped, he rushed over to the rabbi's house. There he was told that the rabbi was still in shul, so off he ran again, his heart pounding from both fear and exertion. "Rabbi!" he cried out, bursting into tears. "How could you do this to me!"

The sage couldn't understand why he was so upset. "What happened, my friend?" he asked gently.

" 'What happened?' you ask? Today is a fast day, I just found out, but Your Honor didn't write it down or even mention anything about it to me last week, and so I already ate and said the wrong prayers. Woe is me!"

The rabbi smiled, relieved. "You can relax, my friend. This is not a regular fast day. We just recently decreed this special fast-day for the residents of Jerusalem because of the possibility of a serious drought due to our lack of rain, but you don't live here and so were in no way obligated."

The farmer looked perplexed. "When you folk need rain, you decree a fast?" he asked, puzzled.

"That's right," the rabbi replied.


"Of course. "Why? What do you think we should do?"

"Well," answered the farmer, innocently, "when my fields don't have enough rain, I go out there and say to the One Above, 'Father! I need rain.' And then it starts to rain."

The Rabbi looked at the simple looking fellow intensely and saw that he was sincere. "If that's so, why don't you try and see if your methods will work here in the city too."

The farmer turned and went outside to the courtyard of the shul. He began to weep. Through his tears he cried out, "Father! Can it possibly be that the people of your holy city will expire from famine? Don't you see that they need rain?"

Immediately the sky darkened and rain began to fall.

As he completed the story, the Maharash said to his visitor from the Holy Land, "So do you really think you are able to distinguish who in the Land is a lofty soul?"


Source: Translated and freely adapted by Yerachmiel Tilles from Sippurei Chassidim--Torah #302.]

Copyrighted © by Ascent-of-Safed, 2002

Biographical note:
Rabbi Shmuel Schneersohn (1834-1882), the fourth Lubavitch Rebbe, known as "the Rebbe Maharash," was the sixth and youngest son of his predecessor, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneersohn, "the Tsemach Tsedek".

Rabbanit Menucha-Rachel Slonim, for many decades the matriarch of the Ashkenazic Jewish community in Hevron, was the daughter of the second Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi DovBer Schneuri. She and her husband, Rabbi Yaakov Slonim, were sent to Hevron by the Rebbe in the early 1800's to bolster its fledging Chabad congregation (originally started by fifteen Chabad fanilies who moved there from Zefat!).

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.

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