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The Rabbi, the Tailor, and the Czar

The Rabbi, the Tailor, and the Czar


Mourners crowded the streets of Ruhatin in the spring of 1889. Rabbi Uri Langner, their beloved rebbe, had returned his pure soul to its maker.

The silence was broken only by the sobs of the chassidim. Among them was a simple man, a tailor by trade. This tailor was not known to frequent the rabbi’s court and no one knew him to have any particularThe silence was broken only by the sobs of the chassidim connection to the rabbi or his teachings.

Yet, as the tailor walked along with the slow-moving procession, his body was racked with such violent sobs that the others could not help but stare in wonder. What was the tailor’s connection with the great rabbi?

After the funeral, some of the chassidim asked the tailor to enlighten them. What was it that brought him to such a deep state of mourning?

“As you know, I am an expert tailor,” said the man, whose eyes still glistened with tears. “I make high-quality clothing for princes, nobles and other fine folks.

“One day, around eight years ago, I was summoned to the house of Rabbi Uri. Of course, I came, and he greeted me warmly and ushered me into his room. The rabbi then locked the door and removed a photograph from his drawer.

“To my utter amazement, it was a portrait of Czar Alexander II, the accursed enemy of the Jews. In the photo, Alexander was wearing his full royal uniform. The rabbi then looked at me with a sense of urgency and asked, ‘Can you sew clothing like this for me?’

Czar Alexander II
Czar Alexander II

“I could barely believe my ears. Why would this rabbi, a man of Torah scholarship and piety, want to have a uniform like that of the Czar? But before I could ask another word, I found myself nodding in agreement. I could do it.

“He gave me the picture, and I got to work. Within a few weeks, the job was done. The uniform was perfect, down to the rich gold braid and the intricate embroidery.

“When I brought my handiwork to the rabbi, he was clearly pleased and grateful for my careful attention to the task he had given me.

“Behind locked doors, he asked me to look at the photo carefully and verify that everything was sewn exactly as shown. ‘Yes, Rebbe,’ I assured him, ‘it’s exact.’

“The rabbi’s face then changed to a deep shade of red. II began to quake with fear began to quake with fear, not knowing what would happen next. He looked like an otherworldly apparition, as he did during the high holidays, and I was afraid to stand near him.

“Suddenly, the rabbi lifted his cane in an upward motion toward his face. The rabbi then lifted his hands and closed his eyes in intense concentration. With tears streaming from his eyes, he called out, “So shall Your enemies be destroyed, G‑d!

“At that moment, I had no idea what I was seeing, but it was clear as day that something important was happening. I was so taken by the scene that I too began to weep.

“After a few moments, it was as if the storm had passed. The rabbi’s face regained its normal expression, and he looked at me calmly. ‘Please don’t tell anyone what you saw here,” he asked. Of course, I agreed.

“A few days later, the news reached our town. Czar Alexander II had been assassinated by a group of young revolutionaries. It was clear to me that it was directly linked to the rabbi’s doings.

“For years I kept the rabbi’s secret. But now that he is no longer among the living, I feel that I can divulge the truth. Now you know why I mourn the rabbi so deeply. He is a holy man who endeavored to bring salvation to his people.”

Wishing to confirm the words of the tailor, chassidim respectfully rummaged through the rabbi’s personal effects. Sure enough they found a suit of royal clothes, just as the tailor had said.

Translated and adapted from Sichat Hashavua, 1442.

Rabbi Menachem Posner serves as staff editor for
Sefira Ross is a freelance designer and illustrator whose original creations grace many pages. Residing in Seattle, Washington, her days are spent between multitasking illustrations and being a mom.
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Shoshana August 25, 2017

The assassination of the Czar in 1881 didn't start WWI, which began around 1914 or so. That occurred because of the assassination of the Archduke of Austria. Reply to anonymous. Reply

Meyer Chein Harlem March 5, 2017

You are supposed to learn from this story; not to have any business with tailors that require trust.Is it not Abraham who said to Lot I.will not take from a tread to a shoe lace.The reason he wanted nothing to do with Tailors and shoe makers. Reply

Ellen Whiting Tacoma August 31, 2017
in response to Meyer Chein:

Abram said that to Bera, the king of Sodom. Bera was a coward who started a rebellion. Then, when it didn't go well, he fled, leaving his people to be plundered and carried off as captives. Because Abram's nephew Lot was among the captives, Abram went to war, fought Bera's battle for him, kicked butt and brought the captives home, along with all their stuff. When it was safe, Bera came back from his hideout. Then he offered Abram the stuff that Abram himself had brought back. Abram replied: "With all due respect, Your Majesty, you can stuff it." (That's a paraphrased version.) He didn't fight for material gain, and he didn't want Bera, the king of the cesspool, to go around bragging that he had made Abram rich. It had nothing to do with tailors and shoemakers. Reply

Anonymous March 4, 2017

The tailor's purpose is telling a long tale which is based weakly on fact .
I also think the sage would have cursed this tailor for making him seem to have magical powers. Reply

Gershon KS March 2, 2017

To Anon in USA Alexander II was killed in 1881, more than 30 years before the start of World War One. Reply

Dmitry Sheinin March 1, 2017

Only very little ahavat Israel would prompt the characterization of Alex. II as "the accursed enemy of the Jews". He was the only Czar to undertake at least partial emancipation of the Jews. True, this tempted traditional Jewish way of life, and many Jews were not up to the challenge. The storyteller would apparently prefer that Jewish observance be enforced through autocratic oppression by a gentile Emperor; a Czar relaxing anti-Jewish persecution is "accursed," and "deserved" death is allegedly induced on him by Voodoo-like sorcery practiced by a rabbi. Big problems indeed with this story. Reply

Anonymous USA March 1, 2017

The Rabbi, the Tailor, and the Czar What meaning am I supposed to get out of this story. The Rabbi killed the czar and World War I started. Help.

Anonymous February 27, 2017

Bad story. We don't pray for the death of anyone. That is up to HaShem. We pray for our suffering to ease - that's a far better prayer to ask of the Creator of the universe. Reply

Dmitry Sheinin February 27, 2017

Exod. 22:17:
מְכַשֵּׁפָה לֹא תְחַיֶּה Reply