A young unmarried chasid named Meir spent the festivals in the court of his Rebbe, Rabbi Dov Ber, the Maggid of Mezritch. When it was time to take leave and he was admitted to the Rebbe's room, he complained about the difficulties he was having finding a wife. Because of his poverty, no one would offer him a match.

"Go in peace," said the Rebbe. "Accept the first marriage proposition that is suggested to you."

On his way home the young man spent the night in a village inn, where he found a group of empty-headed loafers wasting their time in drinking and foolish jesting. Being cold from his journey, he found a seat in a corner next to the stove. He tried to be unobtrusive, but the mischief-makers spotted him, and asked him where he was from and what was his business. He gave them the name of his home town, and told them that he had just visited the Maggid of Mezritch.

What did you want from the Rebbe, and what did he answer you?

"What did you want from the Rebbe, and what did he answer you?" they pried.

He replied: "I asked the Rebbe to pray that the Al-mighty arrange that I meet my marriage partner, and he told me that I should agree to the first match that was proposed to me."

At this, one of the party jumped up and exclaimed: "Excellent! I've got a first-class match for you. My sister is a young divorcee, and she has a hundred silver rubles - and she's here right now! If you're agreeable, we can shake hands on it."

Now in fact, this good-for-nothing was in no way related to the young woman; she was the daughter of the wealthy innkeeper, who was not home at the time.

Meir answered coolly: "Fine; I agree."

The prankster ran into the kitchen, explained the joke to her and asked her to play her role, saying it would be excellent for the inn's business, as many celebratory drinks would certainly be ordered. She innocently agreed, and when she emerged into the main room, was greeted with loud cheers and applause.

The band of loiterers thereupon ordered vodka with which to treat the young chasid on the occasion of his unconventional engagement, and had a great time toasting l'chaim and offering him their blessings, all the while snickering behind his back. Then one of them came up with a further suggestion: "Why don't we arrange the marriage ceremony straight away? Then we can throw a really great party!"

One of his friends objected: "But none of our crowd knows how to draw up the marriage contract and run the ceremony."

Meir, overhearing them, promptly volunteered that he knew how to do both. This gave them even more cause for mirth. They took a clean tablecloth and held it up with four broomsticks over the heads of the couple as a chupah canopy. The chasid wrote out the ketubah document; and then he duly sanctified the giggling young lady as his lawful wedded wife according to the rites of Moses and Israel.

This young man has been providing us with a little entertainment!

His companions now enjoyed their practical joke so much that they tugged at his hat from all sides, made fun of him without any restraint, and even started to slap him around a bit. Seeing how things were faring for him, the young man made his escape and spent the night in the cottage of one of the gentile villagers. In the morning he ventured out as far as the door of the inn, but was afraid to enter lest he be beaten up again. Just at that moment he heard one of the servants saying: "Here comes the boss at the front door!"

The young man approached the innkeeper, and said, "How do you do, father-in-law!"

The innkeeper was somewhat taken aback: "Who is this? What is he talking about?" he asked.

His daughter, who had come out to greet him, explained: "This young man has been providing us with a little entertainment, and last night we had a engagement and marriage ceremonies, just for fun! You'll be pleased with how much extra food and liquor was sold."

Her father did not like the sound of what he heard, and plied her with questions in order to find out exactly what had taken place. When he heard her answers, he shouted furiously at Meir: "Dolt! What's the idea of marrying this young lady? Those idiots may not understand the implications of a ketubah and a wedding ceremony in front of witnesses, but if you are a chasid and a scholar as you appear, you should certainly know better. Didn't you realize that they were making fun of you?"

And, to make his point clearer, he slapped the hapless young man across the face. Soon enough, however, he had second thoughts on the subject, and told himself: "Since I'm already tied up with this tramp, I'll have to speak to him politely in order to be able to get out of this mess. If I get angry, he'll take no notice of me."

He therefore changed his tone, asked the young man to give his daughter a bill of divorce, and promised him twenty silver rubles for his trouble, a significant amount of money. To his surprise, the visibly impoverished chasid quickly refused. He raised his offer several times, but each time with the same lack of success.

You might as well stop trying to buy me off

"You might as well stop trying to buy me off," said Meir finally. " Let me tell you what is really going on. My Rebbe told me to agree to the first match that was proposed to me, and that's what I did. This crowd may have treated the whole matter as a joke, but I took it seriously. I accepted the offer, according to the Rebbe's instructions, and I certainly will not withdraw from it without a specific order to do so from the Rebbe. If you don't agree to the match, let us go to the Rebbe together; let him decide."

The dismayed father-in-law realized he now had no option but to travel to Mezritch. When they arrived, he put his complaint to the Maggid: "One day while I was away from home, along came this pauper, believed a band of jokers who told him my daughter was their sister, and accepted their proposal to marry her. Then they went under the wedding canopy in front of witnesses! I want to dissolve it and I offered him some money to do so, but he won't agree without your approval. I am now willing to offer him one hundred silver rubles-a fortune for him-so long as he gives my daughter a divorce."

"If you will to retire to your lodgings," said the Maggid, "I'll discuss the matter with the young man."

When the innkeeper returned a few hours later, the Maggid told him: "I discussed the divorce with the young man, and he is agreeable - provided that you give him a thousand silver rubles. I will then propose an excellent respectable match I have in mind for your daughter. The new bridegroom will give you a thousand silver rubles, so that you will lose nothing at all."

"I am willing to do whatever you say, Rabbi," said the innkeeper, who had the greatest of respect for the famed chasidic leader.

"Very well," asserted the Maggid. "I vouch that this very same young man comes from a family of refined lineage, and is himself a man of outstanding character. His only fault was his poverty. Now, thank G‑d, he has a thousand silver rubles. New clothes and a good diet will fix up his appearance in no time. You could do no better than to continue with him. I assure you: it is a match made in heaven. May you both journey home with joyful hearts."

The innkeeper took the Rebbe's counsel to heart, went home happily with his son-in-law, and the newly wedded couple lived their life together in harmony.

Editor's note:
Another version cites Rabbi Moshe Tsvi of Sevran as the Rebbe, indentifies the innkeeper as Mr. Tsvi Velbka, and reports the wedding as taking place on Lag B'Omer night.

Based on Sippurei Chassidim by Rabbi S. Y. Zevin and other oral sources.

Rabbi Dov Ber of Mezritch, known as "The Maggid". A gifted orator and original thinker, he was a maggid, or preacher. Initially a fierce opponent of the new chassidic movement, he became the Baal Shem's ardent follower, and after the his death, the consolidator of the Chassidic movement. Under his guidance for 11 years, the movement expanded rapidly. In time, both chassidim and their opponents came to defend a common Torah against the onslaught of rising tide of enlightenment and secularization. Among the Maggid's students were Rabbi Shmelke of Nikolsburg and his brother Rabbi Pinchas Horowitz of Frankfurt, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev, Rabbi Nachum of Chernoble, Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, Rabbi Elimelech of Lizhensk and his brother Rabbi Zusha of Anapoli, Rabbi Zev Wolf of Zotamir, Rabbi Shlomo of Karlin, Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk, and many others. The Maggid's only son was the saintly Rabbi Avraham HaMalach (the Angel)(1740-1776).

Copyright 2003 by KabbalaOnline.org, a project of Ascent of Safed (//ascentofsafed.com). All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this work or portions thereof, in any form, unless with permission, in writing, from Kabbala Online.