Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Divrei Chaim's Avodah in D'zikov

Once, Reb Chaim Halberstam, the Divrei Chaim, traveled to see Reb Eliezer of D'zikov. On the way, as he was passing through a certain village, he was recognized, and called into a house to be sandak (G-d-father) at a bris, right there on the spot. He accepted, and was led into the house. The father was very excited by his guest, and during the course of the seudah (celebratory meal), he went down to the cellar to fetch one of his best bottles of aged wine in Reb Chaim's honor. He poured a small cup for Reb Chaim, warning him that it was particularly potent and strong, but Reb Chaim drank cup after cup, after cup. All of the householder's protestations that he cease drinking for his own good went unheeded until Reb Chaim finished the entire bottle of wine. He begged Reb Chaim not to travel to D'zikov in his condition, but rather to sleep off some of the wine at his home. Reb Chaim payed his words no heed, and immediately resumed his journey.

When he reached D'zikov he decided to stop by his achsanya (host) before meeting Reb Eliezer. He was at least able to recognize that in his inebriated state he would not be able to meet with Reb Eliezer in holiness and purity, and so he sent his shamash (attendant) to the home of Reb Eliezer to explain that he had been to a seudas bris, had drank too much wine and so on, and that it was now difficult for him to come right away upon entering the city. When Reb Eliezer heard these words he immediately got up, and went out to greet Reb Chaim at the home of his achsanya. After a cordial meeting, Reb Chaim offered to accompany Reb Eliezer back to his home. He would not have it any other way. Reb Chaim's shamash then went back to sleep by the achsanya. But it occurred to him that it may have not been the best idea to leave him alone with Reb Eliezer in this situation. After all, Reb Eliezer was old and weak, as well. He hurried to the house, but before he got to the door, he saw Reb Eliezer hanging out of the window, gesturing to him to go back to the achsanya.

It was morning, and as the shamash returned to the home, he caught eye of Reb Chaim reciting krias shema (prayer proclaiming the name of G-d as One) by the mezuzah. Said Reb Eliezer to the shamash: "certainly, you think that he's reciting krias shema of shacharis (morning prayer). That's not the case. Rather, last night he began reciting krias shema al hamitah (the shema before bed), and he's still on the pasuk Shema Yisrael (the initial verse)." Reb Eliezer - or anyone else hearing this story presumably - could not believe that after drinking an entire bottle of strong wine, he had the strength to stand six hours on the first pasuk of krias shema!


Anonymous said...

This is an amazing story. Can it possibe though that he was on the first line of shema how long could he have possibly prolonged the verse?

Chazzan805 said...

It's like the story of Reb Mordechai of Kuzmir, who would take a couple of hours to say the harachamans in bentching when they said it b'tzibur. And similarly, when he did the na'anuos, the shaking of the lulav.