Sunday, May 13, 2007

Reb Shlomke's Miraculous Cholent

Reb Shlomo Goldman of Zvhil, known as Reb Shlomke, was a descendent, ben acher ben, from the Magid of Zlochov. While he was Rebbe in Zvhil, he managed to conceal his greatness. Though everyone knew he was learned, they didn't realize what a lofty level Reb Shlomke was on until the following story happened:
One of the town shikers (drunkard) of Zvhil was a man that we'll call Andrei. He was basically harmless, being content with a bottle or two of vodka. Although Andrei was not Jewish, he liked to frequent the Jewish section of town, because he wouldn't get beaten up there, like in other parts of town, and he knew that the Jews were compassionate people, who would give him food when he went begging.
One Saturday morning, after a big drinking binge the previous night, Andrei felt especially hungry. He knocked on several doors, but got no answer, as it was Shabbos and the residents were in shul. The next house he went to also had no answer, but he noticed the door was not locked properly. The homeowners, in their rush to get to shul had left the door unlocked. Andrei opened the door, and was greeted by a set table with beautiful golden challahs, a decanter filled with red wine and other delicacies. There was a heavenly aroma coming from the stove; the smell of the cholent and kugel was making his mouth water. Andrei didn't know where to start first. The wine attracted him the most, but he thought it would be best to get some food in his empty stomach first. He opened up the pot of cholent and scooped out a big portion for himself, which he shoved down his throat like a man who had never seen food before. A huge piece of kugel followed the cholent. At this point, he heard people outside, walking home from shul, and he thought it would be best to leave the house right away, before he would be caught redhanded. He was still chewing his food, as he headed for the door, but was stopped in his tracks by the golden challah on the table; it looked so good and he was still so hungry. He ripped out a huge chunk of challah, took a big bite from it and reached for the doorknob. He had so much food in his mouth that he couldn't chew properly. A piece of challah went down the wrong pipe and he couldn't breathe. Andrei gasped for air and his face turned colors, as he began to choke on the challah, and moments later he fell down, dead, in front of the door.
A few minutes later, the couple who lived in this house arrived home. They tried opening the door but there was something preventing the door from opening more than a crack. The husband pushed with all his might and got the door opened. They walked into the house and looked to see what was blocking the door. They were in a state of shock when they saw, Andrei, the town shiker, lying on the floor of their house. The husband stated shaking him and yelling at him to get out of his house, but soon realized that Andrei was completely lifeless. He saw the big chunk of challah next to Andrei and surmised what had transpired. They began to panic. Just recently there had been pogroms in the area. If people found out that Andrei was found dead in a Jews house they will accuse the Jews of killing him. Even though they couldn't care less about Andrei, they would use any opportunity to attack the Jews. The wife told the husband to go run to the Rebbe, Reb Shlomke, and ask for his advice.
The homeowner rushed over to the Rebbes house and told him what happened. The Rebbe concured with him, that the townspeople might use this as an excuse to make another pogrom. Reb Shlomke took a spoonful of his cholent and told him to take it and put it into the dead shiker's mouth. Thoughts started going through the man's mind; how could he feed a dead man, but he did not ask any questions, as he was a simple Jew who had complete emunah in whatever the Rebbe told him.
He walked home briskly, being careful not to drop the cholent. He tried to put the cholent in Andrei's mouth, but his mouth was sealed shut. So the man said in a panic "Reb Shlomke said I should feed you the cholent". At the mention of the Rebbe's name, the lifeless shiker opened his mouth, and the man quickly placed the Rebbe's cholent in as far as he could. He almost fainted from what he saw next. Andrei got up from the floor and looking straight ahead, walked out the door. The man followed Andrei, curious to see what would happen. Andrei walked across town, in a zombie-like manner, looking straight ahead. After several minutes, Andrei arrived at his own house. As soon as he stepped in to his house, he fell down to the floor, lifeless as before.
The man ran back to his house to tell his wife over what happened. They had just witnessed an open miracle. They had seen a dead man get up and walk across town to his house. They now realized that Reb Shlomke was a lot more than he made himself out to be. The story spread quickly and everyone now knew that their Rebbe was a very holy man, who had tried to conceal his greatness. It is said that this story is what prompted Reb Shlomke to start thinking about moving to another place, where people wouldn't know him.
Eventually he did move to Yerushalaim, where he managed to conceal his identity until one day someone from Zvhil bumped into him in shul and revealed his identity. After that throngs of people flocked to him for his advice and help until his passing on 26 Iyar 5705/1945, the 41st day of sefira, yesod sheb'yesod. One of the tzadikim by the funeral smelled all sorts of fragrant spices coming from Reb Shlomke's body. Later on, he asked Reb Shlomke's son, Reb Gedaliah, what the source of this custom was. Reb Gedalia replied that they have no such custom. They realized that this beautiful smell was actually from this great tzadik himself. May his memory be a blessing.
Reb Shlomo ben Reb Mordechai
Zchuso Yogen Aleinu V'Al Kol Yisroel

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