Motzei Shabbos Story: Near the gravesite of the Shaagas Aryeh in Metz, France, is the grave of a simple tailor. How he ended up there involved a promise, a dangerous mission and a torrential rainfall.
By Hillel Baron – Chabad.org
The assistant of the famed Torah scholar, Rabbi Aryeh Leib Ginzburg, better known as the Shaagas Aryeh (1695-1785), was about to pass away. He turned to his master and said, “I served you loyally without ever asking for any reward. But now I would like to request that you look after my young son. Please ensure that he receives a proper education and grows up to be a Torah scholar.” The rabbi gave his word.
The man passed away, and the Shaagas Aryeh took his promise very seriously. He took the boy into his home and learned with him every day. But a short while later, the boy simply vanished.
They looked for him high and low, but the young orphan could not be found. The rabbi began a regimen of prayer, and with tears in his eyes, he fell asleep. He dreamt that he saw the missing child, hidden in a nearby monastery. He understood that the boy had been kidnapped to be brought up outside of his religion by someone who thought they could get away with it because he was an orphan.
The Shaagas Aryeh called for a tailor whose business brought him in contact with leaders of the church, and who was familiar with their centers. The Shaagas Aryeh described what he had seen in his dream, and the man said that he recognized the monastery the rabbi had envisioned, and knew where it was located.
The rabbi then turned to the tailor and asked, “Since you are familiar with the place, and you can go there without raising suspicion, can you please take upon yourself the dangerous job of rescuing the boy, and returning him to his people?” The tailor agreed.
The Shaagas Aryeh asked how he could reward him for risking his life. The tailor replied that he did not need payment. The rabbi promised him a very long life, and that he would be buried immediately adjacent to him as a reward for this dangerous mission. The man accepted this proposal.
He went ahead with the plan and managed to smuggle the boy out of the monastery, and bring him to a Jewish farmer who lived far from town. The Shaagas Aryeh would send the boy letters, keeping up with him, and helping him advance in his studies.
In time, the Shaagas Aryeh passed away and was buried in the Jewish cemetery of Metz, the community he had served faithfully for many years. Some time later, a younger rabbi from a nearby town passed away, and was buried to one side of the Shaagas Aryeh’s resting place. Most did not know who he was, for he had changed his name, but he was actually the young orphan the Shaagas Aryeh had promised to take care of, then rescued, and brought up to be a true Torah scholar.
Years went by and the tailor, who had rescued the boy and had lived to a very old age, was on his deathbed. He called for the members of the burial society, and told them that he had the word of the Shaagas Aryeh that he would merit to be buried near him. He asked that they follow through. The men of the chevra kadisha were not inclined to believe him, and did not plan to honor his request.
On the day that the tailor’s soul left his body, torrential rains fell on the town and its surroundings, to the extent that visibility was significantly impaired. The burial society barely made it to the cemetery, and once there, they could not tell where in it they were. After hurried discussions, they decided that they would bury the man right where they stood.
When they arrived the next day, they found that they had buried him immediately near the Shaagas Aryeh, in the one available spot immediately adjacent to him. They understood that undoubtedly, this was the Shaagas Aryeh’s will, which had been fulfilled, with their cooperation or without.
Reprinted with permission from Chabad.org