This story is included in Rabbi Tilles' newly published book Festivals-of-the-Full-Moonavailable for purchase from Kabbala Online Shop

The traditional Shabbat Eve songs, Shalom Aleichem and Eishes Chayil had already been sung. The candle flames reflected a yellow sun in the ruby wine of the decanter. A hush settled over the room as adults and children edged closer to the table to hear Father's Kiddush. Father took a deep breath and...fell asleep in his seat!

"Tatteh! Tatteh! Father! Father!" the family called. No response. Mother put her hand on his shoulder and shook him, but that didn't help either. "Wake up! Wake up!" the children screamed frantically. Deciding that he had fainted, the adults also began to worry, and someone ran to get the doctor. The doctor came, but he too found it impossible to either arouse the man from his deep slumber or to understand what had happened to him. He suggested that everyone let him "sleep it off". Someone else would have to make Kiddush.

The head of the family, a miller by trade, didn't wake up till morning. He was astounded - and embarrassed - to hear what had happened. But the next Friday night it happened again. The week after that, again. And again. And…

"Oh, no! Not again!" cried out the miller in frustration. He rose from his chair where he had fallen asleep over the Shabbat table and stretched his stiff limbs. "What is happening! Nothing helps! I can't go on like this. Tomorrow I'm going to the Rebbe!"

Broken-hearted, the Jew returned home…

The next day he went to Rebbe Shmuel Abba of Zichlin and told him the whole story. Bursting into tears, he begged to be rescued from this bizarre affliction.

"I don't know how I can help you," replied the tzadik, shrugging. "You transgressed Shabbat and blemished her, so - measure for measure - you are being prevented from honoring her."

The chassid became even more upset. "I don't understand. I'm so careful with the laws of Shabbat. Breaking Shabbat? I don't know what you are talking about."

The Rebbe listened to him, but simply repeated that the uncontrollable sleep was a punishment for violating Shabbat. Then, to the chassid's dismay, he abruptly bid him farewell and ended the audience.

Broken-hearted, the Jew returned home. When he told his family all the Rebbe had said, they were astonished. Everyone knew how careful he was about observing the Shabbat.

But then, one of his older sons spoke up. "Father, I have to tell you that the Rebbe's words revealed genuine divine inspiration because, unfortunately, they are true. One Friday night, when I was up late, I saw you get up in the middle of the night. You were obviously still half asleep and unaware. I saw you light a candle so you could see your way to get a drink of water, and then you extinguished it when you were finished. The next morning it was clear that you had no recollection of what had happened, and not wanting to shame you or show disrespect, I never said anything. But now that the Rebbe himself hinted to it, I realize I am obligated to divulge what I saw. Please G‑d, it should help."

The man thanked his son and immediately set forth for Zichlin again. He told the Rebbe what his son had reported, and the Rebbe said, "That's it. How can it be that a Jew can allow himself to be totally oblivious to the holiness of Shabbat? "Remember and guard [the holiness of Shabbat] as one word were said" [see Lecha Dodi prayer of Shabbat eve]; "Remember" is accomplished through speech, by expressing the holiness of Shabbat in words, as in Kiddush. "Guard" is for mind and heart, to be continually aware of Shabbat's holiness throughout the entire day, that it not be transgressed. But you forgot it, so now Shabbat has a case against you."

"Please Rebbe," sobbed the man, "tell me how to repent. Give me a remedy. Save me from this unbearable affliction!"

"I told you, I can't do anything. The only 'remedy' is if there should happen to you a test in Shabbat observance and you stand up to it. Then Shabbat will be appeased of your insult."

These final words made the chassid feel a little better. He trusted the Rebbe and resolved to stand up to the trial no matter what it may be.

Open the mill on Shabbat. If you don't, I'll throw you out….

Shortly thereafter a summons came from his poritz, the nobleman from whom he received the right to operate his mill in exchange for annual rent and a percentage of its income. The latter informed him that he planned to greatly expand the flour mill's capacity, and that in order to recoup the large amount of money that he would have to invest, it would be necessary for the mill to operate on Saturdays as well, starting now.

"That's impossible." The Jew declared firmly. "I only work six days, never on Shabbat."

"Oh, come on," said the nobleman, "I know you Jews. You can get around it if you want. I heard that a rabbi can make some kind of contract where you can stay home, but the mill stays open and I don't lose the income."

"I've never employed such a leniency in relation to Shabbat, and I never will," the miller firmly declared.

The poritz raised his voice. "Stubborn fool! I'll give you two months to complete the renovations needed to start to open the mill on Shabbat. If you don't, I'll throw you out."

Know that your cure and your salvation will soon happen simultaneously….

When the time was up, the poritz sent for him again and asked him his decision. Realizing that the moment the Rebbe had spoken of had come, the Jew responded quickly that he will never work on Shabbat in any way or form no matter what happens, and, just as quickly, the nobleman evicted him.

Bereft of his income, the miller and his family soon fell into hard times. Even basic food for the children became hard to supply. What's more, his "Shabbat disease" still afflicted him. Again he went to Zichlin to pour his heart out to the Rebbe.

"Stop worrying," said Rabbi Shmuel Abba. "Know that your cure and your salvation will soon happen simultaneously. You passed your test, Shabbat is appeased, and your landlord will soon ask you back to the mill."

The miller went home, fully believing in his Rebbe's blessing.

Meanwhile, the mill's owner had completed the expansion and remodeling of the mill operation, and had found a manager who was willing to work a seven-day week to take it over. But right from the beginning it didn't work out. Unusual accidents kept occurring, and all sorts of problems arose. Huge losses piled up. The situation was bizarre and everyone realized it.

The nobleman was forced to admit to himself that his problems must be connected to his having ruined the livelihood of the Jewish miller. As soon as his former tenant returned from Zichlin, he sent for him and, after revealing the mill's desperate situation, offered to lease it to him as before.

"And what about my Shabbat?" the chassid asked.

"Look," he answered, "after all the unusual problems and sharp losses, I realize that G‑d is with you. Do however you see fit."

So the Jew returned to the mill, and was soon blessed with more success than he had ever had. He became prosperous. Also, his affliction disappeared at the same time, just as the Rebbe had said. But even with his new wealth, reciting Kiddush on Shabbat night remained his greatest pleasure.

Translated and freely adapted from Shemu U'tchi Nafshechem #219; first published in Kfar Chabad Magazine - English

Biographical note:
Rabbi Shmuel Abba Zikelinsky of Zichlin [19 Kislev 5570 - 26 Elul 5639] was an important disciple of Rabbi Simcha Bunim of Pshischah, and subsequently a rebbe in his own right with a large following.

Copyright 2003 by All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this work or portions thereof, in any form, unless with permission, in writing, from Kabbala Online.