Reb Chaim Eleazar Shapira (1832-1937), the Rebbe of Munkatsch, often told the following story on Shushan Purim, the anniversary of the passing of Reb Koppel of Likova:

Reb Koppel made a comfortable living as a wholesaler of hard liquor. As sometimes happened, the approach of Passover found him with a large stock of full barrels in his warehouse. They were worth a small fortune, and he was relying on them to provide him with the numerous dowries that he would soon need, for he was blessed with many daughters and he had no other source of income. This should not have posed a problem, for it was exactly for this situation that the sages legislated the sale of leavened products, chametz, for the duration of the Passover festival. The local gentiles had conspired against him…

But he did not know that this year the local gentiles had conspired against him. They were well aware that, as every year, Reb Koppel would be seeking a non-Jew to whom he could sell all his leaven products. So they plotted that this year no one would buy his chametz from him. They knew that he would then have no alternative but to declare it all ownerless. Then they would be able to legitimately help themselves to this valuable merchandise and divide it among themselves.

Everything went according to plan. Early in the morning of the eve of Pesach, Reb Koppel went to the homes of a few different gentiles, to whom he was accustomed over the years to sell his stock of whiskey. But this time each one refused, each mumbling a different excuse. He knocked on many other doors but no one would agree to help him. From the smiles that accompanied their refusals, he realized that something was up.

After a few hours, the deadline for benefiting from chametz arrived; after this time he could no longer own the contents of his barrels nor sell them. Having no choice, he loaded them all on a wagon, and drove to the riverside beyond the borders of the town. There he unloaded them and recited the traditional Aramaic formula: "All leaven or anything leavened which is in my possession…shall be considered naught and ownerless as the dust of the earth." He drove his empty wagon home in a happy mood…

Although he had just cast away a small fortune with just a few brief words, he drove his empty wagon home in a happy mood. He thanked G‑d that he had been able to fulfill the mitzva of ridding oneself of one's chametz in such a magnificent yet straightforward manner, for surely he would never again cast eyes on that valuable merchandise.

His family was devastated at the loss and throughout the eight-day festival barely managed to conceal their depression over their sudden state of poverty. Reb Koppel, however, spent the entire holiday in a state of exalted joy.

The morning after the final day of Passover, he and his family set out for the riverside spot where Reb Koppel had abandoned his life's worth. Although they were certain that the local gentiles had happily drained every barrel to the last drop, they hoped that at least the barrels had been left standing and intact. Now that they had been reduced to poverty, they thought that perhaps they could make a bit of money by selling the empty barrels.

When they arrived at the location, a group of gentiles that were standing around there called out to them derisively:

"You're a real clever Jew, huh! What a trick you played on us, proclaiming in a loud voice that you are abandoning all of your whiskey, and then sending a fierce watchman with a sword in his hand to guard the barrels night and day for your entire festival?"

Reb Koppel and his family did not know what they were talking about. What watchman? Where was he? Where did he come from? Who sent him? Why? However, when they approached the barrels, they saw with their own eyes that they were all intact and as full as they had been nine days previously, not a drop was missing. Only then did they understand from where the watchman had come - from heaven!

Since the barrels of whiskey were still officially ownerless, Reb Koppel quickly claimed them and took legal possession. Then he reloaded them on his wagon, and returned them to their starting place in his warehouse.

Biographical note:

Reb Koppel of Likova was the maternal grandfather of the famous Chasidic Rebbe, the Seer of Lublin. He passed away on the Fifteenth of Adar in the late 1700's.

Adapted by Yerachmiel Tilles from Sippurei Chassidim by Rabbi S. Y. Zevin and other oral sources.

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