Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Maggidim of Chernobyl and Bar

"Ke'Reuven v'Shimon yihiyu li, as Reuven and Shimon they shall be mine (Bereishis 48:5)."

As Jacob's life comes to an end in this week's parsah, parshas vayechi, he gives the famous birchos Yaakov, "blessings of Jacob," to his children. Before doing so he calls in his two grandsons from Yosef. Yosef has become viceroy over all of Egypt, and while there he gives birth to two sons, Ephraim and Menashe. Before his blessing to the grandsons he states "ke'Reuven v'Shimon yihiyu li." Due to their virtue, Yosef's children, Ephraim and Menashe, now have the status of Jacob's own children, such as Reuven and Shimon.

Reb Mordechai, the Maggid of Chernobyl, was married to the daughter of Reb Aharon of Karlin. She bore him five illustrious sons, all of whom became Rebbes in their own right. She passed away, and left Reb Mordechai a widower. He decided firmly that he would not marry again. As the years passed he began to get offers for shidduchim (matches for marriage), but he held his ground. It was not until he received a letter from his late wife's brother, Reb Asher of Stolin, that he began to consider a new life. Reb Asher goaded him to take as a wife the daughter of Reb Dovid Leikes, Maggid of the Russian town of Bar, who was a prominent chasid of the Ba'al Shem Tov. Reb Mordechai relented, and made the journey to Bar to ask Reb Dovid for his daughter's hand in marriage. He presented the proposal at arrival, and after closing his eyes and meditating over the matter for a couple of minutes, Reb Dovid said, "I'm sorry, but I flatly refuse your proposal." "But surely you could at least give me your reason for refusal," said Reb Mordechai. "If it's a financial concern, while I cannot provide your daughter with an extravagant lifestyle, I could promise that we would be well taken care of." "No, that is not the reason at all," replied Reb Dovid. "Let me explain something to you," he said. "In my meditation I have just seen that my wife is destined to have five children. I have also seen that you are destined to have three more children. And so that means that after having three children with my daughter, you will pass away and leave her a widow. She will then have to look for another suitable shidduch, and have two more children with that husband. So you see, this really is not an auspicious bargain from our point of view." Reb Mordechai asked for three days to think over the matter.

At the end of three days Reb Mordechai came to Reb Dovid, and said the following: "It is all worked out. You see, I have consulted with the Ba'al Shem Tov, of blessed memory, and he quoted the verse from parshas vayechi, 'ke'Reuven v'Shimon yihihu li,' meaning that as you said, I will give your daughter three more children. But when I pass away, two of those three children will have their own two sons who will be at the same level of saintliness as our children. Therefore, just as Ephraim and Menashe were grandsons of Jacob, but were given the same status as the children of Jacob, so too will the virtue and merit of our grandchildren be of the type that they will be moved up to the status of being our own children." Reb Dovid agreed to the shidduch, and it happened as Reb Mordechai had explained: They bore three tzaddikim, Reb Yochanan of Rachmestrivska, Reb Dovid of Tolna, and Reb Itzik'l of Skver. And from them came two grandchildren, Reb Dovid of Zlatopol (son of Reb Yochanan), and Reb Dovid of Skver. And it was through these two that the shidduch was complete, albeit retroactively.

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