Once a Jew named Mendel came to the tzaddik Reb Aryeh Leib of Shpola, asking for help. At a glance, the rebbe could see that he was terribly upset.
“Rebbe, I don’t know what to do!” the man said. “A year ago I left my home in Rumania to come to Russia, together with my wife and family. We hoped to get a new start in life, but we’ve had no luck. In addition to all the expenses of moving, which I don’t know how I’ll pay, I have now received official papers demanding that I appear in court on charges of stealing money from the government.”
“Believe me, Rebbe, I never touched a penny that wasn’t mine in my whole life. I don’t know what it’s all about. Rebbe! What am I to do?”
“Don’t be worried,” said Reb Aryeh Leib, trying to calm him down. “Tell me, where is the trial to take place?”
“Here in Russia,” Mendel replied. “They wanted to take me back to Rumania, but the Russian government protected me.”
“Good. It’s best to be on your own ground. Is there a date for the trial?”
“Yes, it’s scheduled for ——.”
“Have it changed,” the rebbe said sharply. “Do everything in your power to make sure the trial takes place on Purim day! Do you have a lawyer?”
“No, Rebbe. Not yet!”
The rebbe paused for a moment and then said, “Mendel, I’ll make you a deal. I know a certain girl who is soon to get married. The poor girl is an orphan, with no father or mother to help her. I am trying to do what I can. She still needs 300 rubles for the wedding. If you get me the money for her, I will get you a good lawyer.”
Mendel was overjoyed. 300 rubles was a lot of money, but Mendel immediately handed the sum to the rebbe. Filled with good hope, he turned to go.
“Wait, Mendel. How will you know who your lawyer is?” said the rebbe. Mendel gazed at the rebbe without speaking. “Listen, don’t worry. He will meet you in the courtroom on Purim day. You will be able to recognize him by his white hat and red gloves. Is that a good enough sign?”
Mendel smiled gratefully. “Thank you, Rebbe,” he said.
Mendel returned home and immediately began carrying out the rebbe’s instructions. He began going to the offices of the court, filing papers and speaking to officials in order to have the date of the trial changed. At first he met with no success. Refusing to take no for an answer, he kept on trying, until at last he succeeded. The trial was set for Purim day.
Shortly before the trial, Mendel sent a letter to the rebbe enclosing more money to be distributed to the needy on Purim, and asking for the rebbe’s blessing.
Finally, the day of the trial arrived. In the Shpoler Zeide’s shul, everyone was in an excited Purim mood.
Following his yearly custom, Reb Aryeh Leib prepared to make his Purim play. He gave instructions to his students and to the people of the town who would be the actors, but no one really knew what the play was about.
One of the townsfolk was instructed to play the part of a Jew named Mendel. Another was to be Mendel’s old friend who had turned against him, and was in fact the chief witness for the prosecution.
The judge was to be played by the rabbi of the town. The prosecutor, who was trying to prove Mendel’s guilt, was told to cover his face with black paint. The Shpoler Zeide himself dressed up as Mendel’s lawyer. He put a white scarf around his fur shtreimel, and wore red gloves.
The trial began. First the “chief justice” read the charges. Then the “prosecutor” with the black face tried to tell the court what a terrible person “Mendel” was, a hardened criminal and a thief. However, all the townsfolk watching the play kept interrupting him and laughing at everything he said.
Next, “Mendel’s former friend” took the stand. He told the court that the true reason “Mendel” had moved to Russia was in order to run away from the law. He had found a chest of golden coins belonging to the government of Rumania, and now he was trying to make off with the money.
Then two “witnesses on Mendel’s side” were called to take the stand. They testified just the opposite. They told the court how they had seen the “friend” demanding a huge sum of money from Mendel. When Mendel refused to give him the money, the “friend” threatened to make big trouble.
Finally, the Shpoler Zeide, dressed up as Mendel’s lawyer, made his speech. He showed how the whole case was based on a lie, made up by the wicked “friend.” He proved that there never was a chest of gold; and even if there had been one, and Mendel had found it, the Rumanian government could not legally claim a penny. Everyone was spellbound, and hung on to his every word.
At last came the verdict. The “judge,” who was the rabbi of the town, declared Mendel innocent. Mendel’s wicked “friend” was reproached and sent off in shame. The “prosecutor” with the black face was grabbed and pushed out of court, and told to go wash his face.
Then the Shpoler Zeide and all his followers sat down to their festive Purim meal. In the middle of their rejoicing, a message from the real Mendel arrived. The trial had gone splendidly! He was free! He would return to Shpola at once.
A few days later, Mendel showed up and told everyone about the trial and his wonderful lawyer. People opened their eyes in disbelief. It was exactly what had happened in the Shpoler Zeide’s Purim play!
Mendel could not wait to see the tzaddik. “Thank you, Rebbe,” he said. “You sent me an amazing lawyer. Everyone said they had never heard anyone like him before! Most important of all, here I am. Free! He saved my life!”
“I am so glad to hear it,” said the rebbe. “Do you by any chance know who that lawyer was?”
“No, Rebbe,” Mendel replied.
“So I will tell you. He was a holy angel from heaven, created by the charity you gave to help that orphan girl get married.
“If you are lucky, you may see him again. After 120 years, when you will be summoned to G‑d’s court in heaven to account for what you did in this world, he may come again to be your lawyer and to speak in your defense!”