When Rabbi Moshe Leib of Sassov was to begin his journey back to his home town, he took leave of his Rebbe, Rabbi Shmelke of Nikolsburg. His Rebbe gave him three gifts: a loaf of bread, a coin, and his own white silk robe. "You will understand soon enough what to do with them," his Rebbe said, as he saw Rabbi Moshe Leib off with his blessing.

The Jew was crying with hunger...

On the road, Rabbi Moshe Leib passed the large estate of a wealthy gentile landowner, or poretz. From a pit that had been hollowed out near the entrance, he heard bitter wailing. Rabbi Moshe Leib peered inside and found a Jew from the village there, a tenant who leased the landowne Rabbis inn. The Jew was crying with hunger: He had neither eaten nor drunk for three days. Unable to pay his debts to the landowner, the man had been hurled into the pit by the furious poretz, with the warning that if he did not pay what he owed, he would be left there to die of starvation and cold.

Rabbi Moshe Leib's heart nearly burst with pity. He threw in the loaf of bread for the man to eat. Then he approached the entrance to the mansion and asked the guards standing there for permission to speak with their master. The guards described Rabbi Moshe Leib to the poretz as a man of tall stature with a handsome face that radiated light and goodwill. Curious as to what business such a man might have with him, the poretz granted him an audience.

Rabbi Moshe Leib came to the point at once, asking that the poor Jew be released. The poretz raised his voice in wrath: "And do you really think I will overlook what is owed me?"

With no other option, Rabbi Moshe Leib offered the single coin he possessed — his Rebbe's gift. The poretz grew even more furious, and hit Rabbi Moshe Leib with his stick. This was a signal to the poretz's servants to seize Rabbi Moshe Leib and throw him out. To add insult to injury, they set their maste Rabbis dogs on him. They were large ferocious dogs that patrolled the courtyard and attacked unwanted visitors.

To the servants' wonder, the dogs circled Rabbi Moshe Leib but did not touch him. They ran to tell their master, and the gentile came out to see for himself. Still, he remained unmoved. "It is obvious that this is no ordinary Jew. Let's give him one more test. If he passes it, I will set him free — and also the Jew in the pit whose liberty he requested."

The wolves backed away from him and cringed at the back of the cage.

The poretz ordered his servants to throw Rabbi Moshe Leib into a cage containing a pack of snarling, meat-eating wolves. Rabbi Moshe Leib saw that the danger was very great; the wolves would tear apart and devour anything that came near them. Suddenly, he remembered something his Rebbe had told him. Rabbi Shmelke had once explained that all wild creatures fear and dread a Jew who had not damaged his tzelem Elokim, his G‑dly image. Even ferocious wolves will not harm such a man.

Calmly, Rabbi Moshe Leib put on the white silk robe that his Rebbe had given him before they parted. The wolves backed away from him and cringed at the back of the cage. And there they stayed.

When the poretz's servants saw this, they were truly shocked and amazed. They ran to fetch their master, so that he might witness this miracle with his own eyes. Seeing Rabbi Moshe Leib and the wolves in the cage, the poretz immediately issued an order that he be freed. He bowed deeply to the tzadik, saying, "Now I know that you are truly a man of G‑d. I will fulfill your every wish."

The Jewish tenant was helped out of the pit where he had languished for three days. Moreover, at Rabbi Moshe Leib's request the poretz vowed never to punish any Jewish tenant again in this cruel manner.


Connection to Weekly Reading: various animals

Adapted by Yerachmiel Tilles from "Stories my Grandfather told me" [Mesorah) by Zev Greenwald

Biographical note:
Rabbi Moshe-Leib of Sossov (1745 - 4 Shevat 1807) was the leading disciple of Reb Shmelke of Nicholsburg. He also received from the Maggid of Mezritch and from Elimelech of Lyzhinsk. Subsequently a Rebbe in his own right with many followers, he was famous primarily for his love of his fellow Jews and his creative musical talent. His teachings are contained in the books, Likutei RaMal, Toras ReMaL Hashalem, and Chidushei RaMal.

Rabbi Shmuel Shmelke HaLevi Horowitz of Nikolsburg (1726 - 2 Iyar 1778) was a major disciple of the Maggid of Mezritch along with his younger brother, Rabbi Pinchas, who became the Rabbi of Frankfort. Many of the leading rebbes in Poland and Galitzia were originally his disciples. Among the books he authored are Divrei Shmuel and Nazir HaShem.

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