An epidemic had broken out in Vloshchov, and a respectful delegation of householders came to ask Rabbi Shlomo of Radomsk to return with them to his hometown to pray for its stricken residents. He was greeted on his approach by the venerable sages of the town, headed by the local rabbinical judge, and behind them the whole eager populace, men, women and children, all decked out in their Shabbat best, with music and dancing and firebrands.

'Nu, nu…When you come here, you'll be honored more!'

"How great is the divine inspiration of the Yid HaKadosh ["Holy Jew"] of Peshischah!" exclaimed Reb Shlomo as he saw the sight before him. "For I recall that when he once visited this town - I was then a little boy — all the townsfolk came out to greet him with due pomp. My father, Reb Hirschele, who was the respected lay head of the community, traveled with the Yid HaKadosh in his carriage, and sat me on his lap. When the tzadik saw me there next to him, he tweaked my cheek in a grandfatherly way, and said : 'Nu, nu…When you come here, you'll be honored more!'"

The next day the tzadik instructed all the townsfolk to walk with him around the edge of the local cemetery, and then he began as follows: "Concerning Aaron the High Priest we read, ‘He stood between the dead and the living, and the plague was stayed.' Now reason dictates that there should be only living people, not dead — for what use does the Almighty have from the dead? Even if they are righteous and dwell in the Garden of Eden, what benefit does he have from them as they sit there, basking in the soothing warmth of Paradise?

"But living people thank, and pray, and praise, and bless! Besides, they drink L’Chayim now and again! [And here Reb Shlomo indulged in a fanciful play on the similarity between LeChayim — the toast To Life! that accompanies a convivial sip of whisky, and lechayayim - the jowls of the sacrificial animal, offered as a reminder of prayer which is breathed and mouthed by the worshiper.]

...through the strength of this argument the plague was indeed banished.

"When Pinchas prayed to G‑d that he remove the plague, he pointed out to the Almighty these two advantages of the living over the dead: first, that they pray; and secondly, that they say L’Chayim. And so we find, indeed, that 'he stood [in prayer] between the dead and the living [in Hebrew, 'hachayim'].' And through the strength of this argument the plague was indeed banished.

"Now, you good folk," concluded Reb Shlomo, "would you please learn from Pinchas, and bring a drop of vodka here, so that we can all say L’Chayim?"

A few of the townsfolk hurried home to bring some spirits and refreshments, and right where they were, just outside the cemetery walls, they drank L’Chayim, and in loud and happy voices wished each other To Life!

From there they went home with happy hearts, and the epidemic vanished from their town.


Connection to this parasha: (Num. 17:9-15)

Lightly edited from the rendition in A Treasury of Chassidic Tales (Artscroll), as translated by our esteemed colleague Uri Kaploun from Sipurei Chasidim by Rabbi S. Y. Zevin.

Biographical note:
Rabbi Shlomo HaKohen Rabinowitz of Radomsk [1803-29 Adar 1866] was the author of Tiferet Shlomo. His speaking ability and musical voice attracted thousands of Chasidic followers.

Rabbi Yaakov Yitzchok of Peshischa [1766-1813], known as 'the holy Yid,' chief disciple of 'the Seer' of Lublin and Rebbe in his own right.

Copyright 2003 by, a project of Ascent of Safed (// All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this work or portions thereof, in any form, unless with permission, in writing, from Kabbala Online.