Reb Daniel was your stereotypical "Litvak" (Jew of Lithuanian extraction) who lived in the holy city of Jerusalem. Reb Daniel's entire life was devoted to Torah study, despite the extreme poverty that had plagued him ever since leaving his native Lomzha. He and his wife were raising their seven children in a dilapidated two-room apartment. Nonetheless, at almost any time of day or night you could find Reb Daniel poring over a thick tome. He rarely went out.

All of Reb Daniel's neighbors were aware of his habits, and recognized him as a great scholar. In fact, Reb Daniel's wife had once told them about the promise her father had extracted from her before he passed away: that she always be a true "helpmate" to her husband, and never disturb his learning.

Her husband was virtually never seen on the street.

Reb Daniel's wife was very scrupulous in fulfilling her father's wishes. Her husband was virtually never seen on the street. He never went to the marketplace or ran an errand. Rarely did he even step outside for a breath of fresh air.

As a result, sightings of Reb Daniel in the street were quite unusual. So, when he was spotted one day hurrying through the marketplace with a large sack on his shoulder, everyone took notice. What was Reb Daniel doing out here?

It turned out that the day before, a peddler had come to the door selling secondhand clothes. Reb Daniel's wife was about to purchase a few garments when her husband reminded her about the mitzva of sha'atnez, the prohibition against wearing clothes woven of wool and flax. (See Levit. 19:19.) Immediately she ran to fetch her neighbor, Reb Shmuel Zanvil, who was an expert in such matters. When he examined the clothes and found that several did indeed contain sha'atnez, she declined the purchase and the peddler left.

The next day Reb Daniel happened to ask her about the clothes, as he had been immersed in study in the other room and hadn't overheard how the problem was resolved. "Oh, there was sha'atnez in them so I gave them back," she replied. "What?" Reb Daniel cried out rather uncharacteristically. "G‑d forbid, another Jew might inadvertently buy them!"

Reb Daniel raced from the house in search of the peddler, and eventually located him in the marketplace trying to sell his wares. When he learned that the peddler hadn't succeeded in selling even one garment, he was so relieved that he purchased the entire lot just to get rid of it. (This, of course, was no small sacrifice, given Reb Daniel's financial state.) That was the type of pious person Reb Daniel was.

Then one day, people began to notice a sudden change in Reb Daniel's habits. Several times he was recognized entering the home of the renowned tzadik, Rabbi Elazar Mendel of Lelov. For hours on end the two of them would sit and discuss Torah...and Chasidut! And if that wasn't enough to raise eyebrows, Reb Daniel was observed studying a book written by Rabbi Nachum of Chernobyl, a disciple of the Baal Shem Tov and the Maggid of Mezritch. Tongues began to wag. "What is happening to Reb Daniel?" people asked. "Is our ascetic Litvak suddenly changing into a chasid?"

Again, it was Reb Daniel's wife who explained what was happening:

A few months previously, Reb Daniel had started to notice that his eyesight was failing. All those years of studying the "tiny letters" were beginning to take their toll. At first he could almost convince himself that it was simple fatigue, but as the days passed he realized that the problem was more serious. Reb Daniel sought the help of several doctors and apothecaries, but none of their remedies helped.

Reb Daniel's wife, who came from a chasidic background, would have immediately suggested that he go to the Lelover Rebbe for a blessing, but she was well aware of her husband’s attitude toward chasidim and tzadikim. Thus it wasn't until his eyesight had deteriorated even further that she decided to take matters into her own hands. Without her husband's knowledge she went to the tzadik's house and explained the situation to his Rebbetzin, with whom she was friendly, and asked her to intercede on her husband's behalf.

The Rebbetzin knocked lightly on her husband's door, opened it a crack, and saw that he was in the middle of praying. Apologizing for the interruption, she started to tell him about Reb Daniel's failing eyesight when he nodded his head. "I know already," he told her. "I know."

"Study a portion of this holy book every day and I promise you that the 'light of your eyes' will return."

The next day an emissary from Rabbi Elazar Mendel arrived at Reb Daniel's house with a package. Inside was the sefer Me'or Einayim ["Light of One's Eyes"], the work of Rabbi Nachum of Chernobyl. Also enclosed was a short note in Rabbi Elazar Mendel's own hand: "Study a portion of this holy book every day and I promise you that the 'light of your eyes' will return."

At first Reb Daniel was hesitant, but when his eyesight became even more impaired he decided to take the tzadik's advice. A few days later he noticed an improvement. In the course of time his vision was completely restored.

From that day on Reb Daniel's attitude toward Chasidut changed dramatically. He became an ardent follower of Rabbi Elazar Mendel, and always kept a copy of Me'or Einayim on his desk.


[Connection to the Weekly Torah reading: 19:19 - the prohibition agaisnt wearing "sha'atnez" referred to in the story]

Adapted by Yerachmiel Tilles from the rendition on (#935), with permission.

Biographical note:
Rabbi Elazar Menachem-Mendel (ben Moshe Biderman) of Lelov (1827 – 16 Adar 1883), moved to Israel at age 24 with his father in 1841. After his father passed away that same year, he became the chasidic leader of the Jerusalem Old City community for the next 42 years, and was also highly respected by all the non-chasidim as well.

Rabbi Menachem-Nachum (Twersky) the Maggid of Chernobyl [1730-11 Cheshvan 1787], was a disciple of the Baal Shem Tov and senior disciple of the Maggid of Mezritch. He is the author of Meor Enayim.