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An Innkeeper from Vohlyn

An Innkeeper from Vohlyn


Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi once said to one of his grandchildren: "Let me tell you about the simple faith of the Jews of Vohlyn (Ukraine).

"Many years ago, I was traveling home from Mezeritch after a period of study under the guidance of my master, the great Maggid.1 It was a cold winter night, and my feet had become immobilized by the cold. When we stopped at a wayside inn, the coachman had to carry me inside in his arms.

"The innkeeper, an elderly, G‑d-fearing Jew, rubbed my feet with snow and spirits until the life returned to them. He asked me about the purpose of my journey, and I told him that I was a disciple of the Maggid of Mezeritch. In answer to my questions, he told me that he had been operating this inn for close to fifty years, and that, thank G‑d, he has earned a comfortable living from it.

" 'Is there a Jewish community here?' I asked.

" 'No,' replied the innkeeper. 'We are the only Jews for many miles around.'

" 'So you don't have a minyan2? What do you do on Shabbat and the festivals?'

" 'To my sorrow,' sighed the old man, 'we pray without a quorum all year round. For the High Holidays, we close the inn for two weeks and travel to the city -- a several days' journey from here.'

" 'But how can you live this way!' I exclaimed. 'How can a Jew go for months on end without a kaddish or borchu, without hearing the public reading of the Torah?'

" 'What can I do? This is my livelihood. There is nothing for me to do in the city.'

" 'How many Jewish households are there in the city?' I asked.

" 'About a hundred,' he replied.

" 'If G‑d manages to provide a living for a hundred families,' I said, 'don't you think He could find a way to provide for one more?'

"On that note, we parted company. I was given a room in which to rest, and the innkeeper went off to attend to his affairs.

"An hour later, I heard a commotion outside. Looking out the window, I saw several carts and wagons piled high with bundles and crates, furniture and household items. The innkeeper and his sons were running about, tying down the bundles and settling the women and children into the wagons.

" 'What's going on?' I asked the old man.

" 'We're moving to the city,' he replied. 'You're right -- this is no place for a Jew. A Jew needs a minyan, a rabbi, a community...'

" 'But just like that, you're going? Where will you stay? And what will you do for a living?'

" 'We'll find something. As you said, if G‑d can take care of a hundred families in the city, He can surely provide for a few more souls...'

"Such was the faith and trust in G‑d of these Jews!" Rabbi Schneur Zalman concluded his story. "I was but a young man at the time, but because I had told him that I was a disciple of the great Maggid, he unquestionably acted on my advice. Without giving it another thought, he left behind an enterprise that had provided him with a comfortable living for fifty years and set out, that very night, to a place where he could better serve his Creator."

Rabbi DovBer of Mezeritch (d. 1772), second leader of the Chassidic movement.
A quorum of ten adult Jewish males required for communal prayer
Told by Rabbi Y.S. Zevin's in Sippurei Chassidim; translation/adaptation by Yanki Tauber.
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Johana Nadler Acworth, GA July 10, 2012

An Innkeeper frm Vohlyn It's a beautiful story but the innkeeper was still a good Jew as he kept praying and adhering to his faith the best he could. He was needed as an innkeeper in Vohlyn because what would have happened to Rabbi Zalman with frozen feet if there would not have been an inn and a dedicated and kind Jew there to help him recover and give him a much needed night rest? G-d did mean for the innkeeper to be there and assure the continuity of Rabbi Zalman's mission. The innkeeper was accomplishing to biggest mitzva of all by staying there to help travelers, among which our dear departed Rabbi Zalman of Liadi. Reply

r August 5, 2007

Re: The innkeeper's purpose Yes, that was all true- up until that very night. Since we believe that "everything is by the hand of heaven," both the innkeeper's fifty-year enterprise and his moving to the city were by the hand of heaven. For fifty years, G-d found it necessary to keep this inn open, and then, one night, he had R. Schneur Zalman stop by and persuade the inkeeper to close it.

And there is also the teaching that "the day of one's death is greater than the day of one's birth," that on one's last day in this world, he finalizes all of his purpose. The same principle is probably true of other things, say, a business: the greatest thing the innkeeper did in those fifty years, the culmination of it all, was to host a talmid of the Maggid, a tzadik in training: R. Schneur Zalman. Reply

Anonymous September 13, 2004

Faith in another I see the innkeeper as having already packed up and left for the city nearly 50 years ago. All he needed to make the actual trip was someone's faith in him - someone he saw as very special.

Isn't it amazing what that kind of faith can accomplish? Reply

Robert Riverdale, NY July 4, 2004

The innkeeper's purpose The innkeeper was fulfilling his purpose, providing food, comfort and shelter to those in need, at the place where his inn stood. How would Rabbi Schneur Zalman have fared on his trip, if he had not a place to shelter from the bitter cold? The innkeeper was at the right place, at the right time, to provide Jewish hospitality to those in need. And leaving his guest, fleeing in the middle of the night without telling his guest?
A nice story, emblematic of showing great faith in rushing to a new place, fleeing to meet one's destiny elsewhere, but absurd. Reply

Anonymous June 28, 2004

BEAUUUTIFUL!! :) Thank you!! Reply