In the dread moments before blowing the shofar every Rosh Hashanah, Rebbe Shalom of Belz, with inspired elation, would deliver words of instruction and exhortation to the assembled chasidim. On one such occasion, speaking of the miracles wrought for the Children of Israel before the Exodus, he quoted the verses which tell of how G‑d sent Moses to bring them out of Egypt.

In response to Pharaoh's question of "Who exactly will go?", Moses answered,
"We will go with our young and with our old; with our sons and with our daughters, with our flocks and with our herds will we go." (Ex. 10:8-9)

Pharaoh finally called for Moses and said: "Go, serve G‑d; only leave your flocks and herds behind. Your little ones also shall go with you."

To this Moses replied, "Our cattle too shall go with us; no hoof shall be left behind; for we will take some of them to serve G‑d therewith." (Ibid. 24-25)

No one understood the relevance of those verses to the moments before the blowing of the shofar….

Having quoted these verses, Rebbe Shalom recited the benediction which precedes the blasts of the shofar, performed the mitzvah, and went on directly to the Musaf prayer, as usual. The chasidim were wonderstruck. No one understood the relevance of those verses to the moments before the blowing of the shofar on Rosh Hashanah, but they held their peace, thinking it unseemly to ask their rebbe for an explanation.

One of his chasidim, Reb Elimelech of Tlust, was accustomed to journey to Belz every year for Rosh Hahanah and then to proceed to visit Rebbe Meir of Premishlan after the holiday. On this occasion, as soon as he stepped over the threshold of the tzaddik's room in Premishlan, Rebbe Meir said, "Elimelech! Please repeat for me the Torah discourse that the Belzer rebbe delivered this year before the shofar was blown."

The chasid told him what Rebbe Shalom of Belz had said and added that all those who heard it were at a loss to see the connection between Rosh Hashanah and the dialogue that preceded the Exodus.

A decree was at the point of being promulgated which would have wrought havoc with the lives of little Jewish children….

The Rebbe from Premishlan at once waxed eloquent in praise of the discourse which the Rebbe from Belz had given: in his profound insight he had penetrated through all the heavens and had averted ominous decrees that had threatened Israel; through his words on Rosh Hashanah he had proved to the Almighty: "Father! In your own holy Torah it is written that no evil shall hold sway over Israel!"

Seeing that the dazed Elimelech had no conception of what he was talking about, Rebbe Meir added, "Let me explain to you what the intention of the holy Rebbe from Belz was: You see, on Rosh Hashanah this year, when all of Creation was arraigned before the Heavenly Court, Satan, the Prosecuting Attorney, was most outspoken in his accusations of Israel. In fact, a decree was at the point of being promulgated which would have wrought havoc with the lives of little Jewish children. But the Rebbe of Belz argued fervently that these children would grow up and serve their Maker.

The next design was a decree of extermination to be issued against the cattle of Israel. The tzaddik of Belz did not let that pass either, arguing that "we will take some of them to serve G‑d therewith". And in this manner he mitigated the verdict, by quoting the verses which spell out the argument between Pharaoh, representing Satan, and Moses, the tzaddik of the generation. Thus the decree against the cattle of the Jews was also averted.

"However," concluded Rebbe Meir, "since the tzaddik of Belz made no mention of birds, this year will see an epidemic affecting them, because the decree hanging over them was not annulled."

And so it was. That year a contagious disease struck the domestic poultry of the Jews of those parts, but neither man nor beast was affected.

Adapted by Yerachmiel Tilles from "A Treasury of Chassidic Tales" (Artscroll).

Rabbi Shalom of Belz [1779-27 Elul 1855] was the first of the Belz chasidic dynasty. He became the main rebbe of Galician Jewry and had tens of thousands of chasidim. His teachings are collected in the work Dover Shalom.

Rabbi Meir of Primishlan [?-29 Iyar 1850], lived in abject but patient poverty, yet exerted himself tirelessly for the needy and the suffering. His divine inspiration and his ready wit have become legendary. He wrote no works, but some of his teachings were collected and published by his chasidim after his death.

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