In a town near Liadi there lived a promising young scholar whose father-in-law supported him for a few years after his marriage, so that he would be able to advance his Torah studies. After some time, however, the fluctuations of business were such that the young man had to go out and try his own hand at merchandising in order to provide for himself.

Once, on the way back from a fair where he had bought up a good deal of merchandise, he passed through a forest near Liadi. It was a day or two before Shavuot, and as he recalled how it had always been his custom to spend the Festival of the Giving of the Torah in the company of his rebbe, Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, he was so overcome with nostalgia that he decided to leave the wagon with its costly load in the forest and to make his way on foot to Liadi.

He arrived in shul just in time for the afternoon prayers. When the rebbe saw him, he commented to his son: “This young man may well be called a chassid of sacrifice.”

The The son was surprised to hear this . . . son was surprised to hear this, for his father had not exchanged a word with the young stranger. He later went to speak with the visiting chassid himself, until he eventually understood wherein lay his self-sacrifice.

When the visitor went to speak to the rebbe after the festival, he was assured: “You will find the wagon and the merchandise untouched, with G‑d’s help.”

The chassid then told the rebbe that his business took his mind away from his study and his devotions. After a moment, the rebbe replied: “I would suggest that you find yourself some inn with a tavern in a village. That kind of livelihood will not bother you unduly. Your wife will be able to help out in the business, and you will be left with time for study and prayer.”

As the chassid reached his wagon in the forest soon after, untouched as the rebbe had promised, a local nobleman who had passed by asked him how he had left a loaded wagon unattended.

The chasid laughed heartily. “Good sir,” he said, “this wagon of mine has been standing unguarded for three whole days!”

The nobleman was so amazed to hear the young man’s story that he said: “Young man, I see that you are straight and honest; I would like to make you a business proposition. In my village there stands a fine inn. You could make a decent living out of it, and I am willing to lease it to you.”

“But I don’t have a penny to my name,” protested the young man. “I haven’t even got what it takes to buy fodder for the horses, let alone vodka, beer or whatever.”

“Very well, then,” said the other, “I shall lay out all that is needed now, and in the course of time you will repay me.”

It was a deal. The chassid went home, sold his stock, and took over the inn as arranged—despite the friendly warnings of his new Jewish neighbors, who told him that even though one could make a living out of the inn, the people next door were a malevolent old Russian couple who wielded mysterious black arts. “I am not afraid of witches” No Jew living in that inn had ever survived one whole year.

“I am not afraid of witches,” he answered them, “for my rebbe told me that I would make a living out of this place. Now tell me: would my rebbe direct me to a living from which I would die, G‑d forbid?!”

Within a few months his little business had done so well that he was able to return his entire debt to the nobleman. A little while later, however, he began to feel weak. An ominous malady seemed to be taking hold of him. He was barely able to walk. Suspecting the dread influence of the sorcerers next door, he hastened to make the journey to his rebbe, and arrived in Liadi on the eve of the Shabbat on which the weekly portion of Balak was to be read. On Friday evening he could not muster the strength to go to synagogue. In the morning, with great effort, he managed to walk to the shul where the rebbe was wont to pray.

Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi was accustomed to reading the Torah himself, and when it was time for a fifth congregant to be honored by being called up for the public reading, he asked that this young visitor be so honored. The other worshipers were somewhat surprised, for the rebbe never gave instructions as to who should be called forward to the reading; besides, he could not have seen the stranger coming in, because he had arrived when the prayers were already underway. At any rate, the stranger made his way forward to where the Torah scroll was being read, and the rebbe proceeded to intone the next passage with especial intensity, which came to a climax in the verse “For there is no sorcery in Yaakov, nor any divination among Israel(Num. 23:23). He threw his head back, his face burned like a brand and his eyes blazed—for such was his way when his soul ascended to a higher realm—and while still in a state of dveikut, read the same words again and again.

“For there is no sorcery in Yaakov, nor any divination among Israel.” “For there is no sorcery in Yaakov, nor any divination among Israel.”

After Shabbat the young man felt his health returning, but before leaving Liadi he went to tell the rebbe his whole story.

“Do not worry,” the rebbe reassured him. “With G‑d’s help you will be well, for there is no sorcery in Yaakov” - and again the rebbe repeated the verse several times with the same impassioned intensity as before.

On That malicious old peasant died suddenly . . .his way home the young man felt hale and hearty, and as he approached the outskirts of his village, a few of the Jewish villagers ran up to him excitedly: “Have you heard what happened right next door to your inn? That malicious old peasant died suddenly, and so did his wife!”

“When?” he asked.

“On Shabbos morning,” they said.

“I sensed it in Liadi,” he said, “when I was called up to the reading of the Torah.”

Adapted by Yerachmiel Tilles from the rendition in A Treasury of Chassidic Tales (Artscroll), as translated by Uri Kaploun.

Biographical note:
Rabbi Schneur Zalman [18 Elul 1745–24 Tevet 1812], one of the main disciples of the Maggid of Mezeritch, is the founder of the Chabad chassidic movement. He is the author of Shulchan Aruch HaRav and Tanya, as well as many other major works in both Jewish law and the mystical teachings.

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